Skip to comments.Does a Surviving Spouse Always Collect 100 Percent of Social Security Benefits?
Posted on 10/12/2011 7:56:16 AM PDT by Kaslin
Dear Carrie: Does my wife collect 100 percent of my Social Security benefits at my death? Thank you. -- Bert
Dear Bert: I wish I could provide you with a quick answer to such a straightforward question. But as with so many issues related to government programs, there are a number of factors that come into play. So yes, it is (possible for your wife to collect 100 percent of your Social Security benefits after you die. But read on for some of the fine print.
Before we get into those details, I want to clarify that there is a difference between standard spousal Social Security benefits, which max out at 50 percent of the worker's benefit and survivor benefits, which can go as high as 100 percent.
In terms of survivor benefits, if you should die your wife's benefit will depend on three things: 1) when you begin to take your Social Security benefits 2) her age when she begins to collect survivors benefits and 3) whether or not you had started to collect benefits prior to your death.
Since I don't know the particulars of your situation, I'll just briefly lay out a few scenarios.
IF YOU TAKE YOUR BENEFITS AT FULL RETIREMENT AGE
The simplest is if you begin taking benefits at full retirement age (66 for those born between 1943 and 1954). That would mean you'd collect your full benefit and your wife, should you pass away before her, could then collect 100 percent of your benefits as long as she also was at full retirement age. This doesn't mean you absolutely have to start taking benefits at age 66. You could also choose to delay up to age 70. The advantage here is that the longer you delay taking Social Security, the larger your benefit--and the larger your wife's survivor's benefit--would be.
IF YOU TAKE YOUR BENEFITS EARLY
If you begin taking your Social Security benefits at 62, the earliest age you become eligible, your monthly benefit would be reduced permanently by about 25 percent. In this case, your wife's benefit is also affected. The IRS rules state that a widow or widower at full retirement age qualifies for 100 percent of what a spouse (set ital) has been receiving (end ital). So if you opt to take Social Security early, upon your death, your wife would collect 100 percent of your (set ital) reduced (end ital) benefits. Unfortunately, the IRS doesn't boost the benefit to the full rate when someone dies.
IF YOUR WIFE TAKES SURVIVOR BENEFITS EARLY
As I mentioned, a spouse at full retirement age can collect 100 percent of the deceased spouse's benefit. But a surviving spouse can begin to collect benefits at age 60 if necessary (or age 50, if disabled). In this case, however, the benefit is reduced by a small percentage for each month before the surviving spouse reaches full retirement age. This could potentially reduce the monthly benefit to between 71 percent and 99 percent of the full benefit.
For example, assuming that your wife's full retirement age is 66, if she started collecting survivor benefits at 60, she would get only 71.5 percent of your benefit. If she started at 62, she'd get 81 percent, and so on. The rationale is that by claiming benefits early, you receive them for a longer period of time so it potentially adds up to the same total. You can find a detailed chart of the various ages and percentages on the Social Security website at ssa.gov/suvivorplan.
IF YOU DIE BEFORE STARTING TO TAKE BENEFITS
Should you die before filing for benefits, no matter how old you are, once your wife reaches full retirement age she would qualify for 100 percent of the benefit you would have received (or her own benefit, whichever is greater). If she starts to collect early, however, it will be reduced as I just described.
STRATEGIES FOR TODAY
While your question concerns survivor benefits, you might also want to make sure you and your wife are maximizing the benefits you're entitled to today. For instance, if you've already filed for benefits, your wife could collect benefits either based on her own work history or the spousal benefit, whichever is higher.
If you haven't explored your various options, I suggest talking to your financial advisor to come up with the best strategy. You can also contact the Social Security administration. It offers information and counseling to help you weigh the different factors. You can speak to a Social Security counselor at your local SSA office or call 1-800-772-1213. Best of luck.
No, my Father got $90 when my Mother passed away.
If your SS is more than your wife’s, she will collect the greater amount....not hers plus yours.
Notice the surviving spouse MUST have reached retirement age to collect the spouses SS benefits. If the husband marries a woman 20 years younger than himself, dies at 70 (she’s 50), she must wait 16 years until she is 66 to collect the first dollar.
if it’s anything like calling the IRS, the answer depends on who you get when you call.
***If the husband marries a woman 20 years younger than himself, dies at 70 (shes 50), she must wait 16 years until she is 66 to collect the first dollar.***
Poetic Ponzi Justice!!!!!
When my Wife of 35 years died we were both not retired..
The feds gave me $255 dollars for the funeral (or whatever)...
THEN they stole all the FICA she and her employers put into the system.. STOLE IT!..
UNless there nothing at all to steal.. *(which IS the point)..
The social Security Trust Fund has been a MYTH for many decades..
“my Father got $90 when my Mother passed away.”
Huh? I thought the “death benefit” was $255. http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10008.html That’s the amount any survivor receives no matter what their age is at their spouse’s death. The amount of monthly retirement they can receive in their spouse’s name depends on all the various factors cited by other posters.
my Father got $90 when my Mother passed away.
That was a long time ago and there was NO monthly payments.
I guess you can buy a really nice shovel for that money.
When my husband died 2 years ago, I was told I could collect nothing from his SS. If you are still working, you cannot collect a penny unless you make less than $14,000. Told the rep if I made less than $14,000 per year, I would kill myself.
By the way, he died on October 24th so they reversed his social security payment for the entire month of October. Should have told him to die on November 1st.
Exactly while which was suppose to be a safeguard for having enough money; instead the government steals the rest.
Also, military spouses are cut in half.
It won’t be long before homosexual butt buddies will be eligible for spousal benefits.
“military spouses are cut in half.”
Seems a bit Sharia-law.
Seriously - SS benefits shuold be a small part of retirement planning, but let’s be honest, SS withholdings are a small part of the paycheck. You only get 6.2% withheld, you still get 93.8% of your wages to live on and invest. We have the option of 401ks, so we all can have our private retirement savings accounts. If you are smart, you live on 78.8% of your income, put 6.2% into SS, and 15% into IRAs. Then when you retire, you live off a combination of the two. If you invest well, the SS check is an after thought.
Those hypercritical of SS say, “let me put my 6.2% plus the 15% into an IRA, and I’ll be better off.” That was certainly true in the 1980s and 1990s, but it hasn’t been true in 12 years, and may not be true again for another dozen years, no one knows. In the meantime, we ought to view SS as a modest part of our future. It’s only a small part of our income, and its future demise is highly exaggerated. (At worse, benefits will be cut from what was promised to 75% of what was promised — painful, but not fatal.)
You will know when this is about to happen as Gov. will start paying each spouse individually rather than using their current marital status to determine what they will get. This will be put forward as a simplification of the system. Nobody ends up winning though because as soon as one of you dies their benefit will disappear. oh and the benefit is usually halved.
Most countries work in a similar manner to this.
It isn’t 6.2%. It’s 15.3%, not a small amount by any measure.
Just because the employers doesn’t give your half to you, but sends it directly to SS instead, doesn’t mean that half isn’t out of your pocket. That was just part of the sleight of hand the Dems did so it wouldn’t look so big. Don’t fall for it, as nearly everyone has.
LoL... Amazing the confusion about SSA...
SAA is pure socialism.. its like a political disease.. sickening the whole culture..
Only 1/3 of the people on SSA are Old people..
The democrats have pulled the wool over republican eyes..
This program has been a brain hemorrhage since its inception..
It needs to be EXPOSED as what it is.. A SOCIALIST TROJAN horse.
It should be privatized..
You gotta show me a link before I believe that one.
I don’t believe that 15.3% is the right number. The social security portion is 6.2% from you, and 6.2% from your employer. But if it suddenly vanished, it doesn’t mean that your employer would raise your pay by 6.2%. No, your employer knows that you live on your take-home pay. If SS were to vanish, he would pocket the money. He would have no incentive to give you a raise.
Your employer has all sorts of costs due to you. More electricity, office supplies, uniform, training, benefits, whatever. The rule of thumb is that an employee costs an employer about 150% of his wages, of which 6.2% is SS. Yeah, cost of business, but a cost of business that American employers have learned to deal with. Eliminating SS would only gain you personally 6.2% (less additional income taxes) which you’d barely notice. Did you notice Obama’s famous “tax cut” when he reduced SS withholdings from 6.2% to 4%? I didn’t notice it.
Bottomline anyway is that SS will never be eliminated, it is just not practical. Hate it if you will, it’s like a drug addiction. We can’t quit cutting checks to retirees, and we need the withholdings to fund those checks. No one has come up with a practical way to break the cycle. (All those private investment schemes are both really, really socialist, unnecessary because we already have IRAs, and funded by brand new borrowing in a brand new entitlement program.)
So quit whining and accept it - you’ll lose 6.2% of your wages to it as long as you work, and after you retire you’ll get back something like 33% of your wages (42% was promised, but that promise may not be met if you are young). Deal with it.
I’d like to tell them to give me back all the money I paid in and I will invest it on my own. Certainly cannot do any worse. They are nothing but thieves.
Must be “you don’t want to believe it”.. then..
All mannar of supposed disabled on on this system..
Its the catch them all socialist trap..
Surely if this shocking fact is true you can provide something other than your opinion to support it?
They cannot give you back what they don’t have..
SAA has gone to the General Fund for decades now..
Its like the lottery in the States was for education(they said)..
ALL States just use lottery funds for general fund needs..
Once they have “your money” its used for socialism..
That makes “YOU” a socialist..
True.. “its hard to admit” but it is true..
“WE” are all socialists..whether we want to be or NOT..
AND we elect folks like Romney and McLaim who are masked as “conservatives”..
Serves “US” right.. we have the federal government “WE” deserve..
Romney, Perry, and probably Caine are all socialists..
NEWT has the ONLY Plan to change things..
Did I say “ONLY”... ah yes I did..
Caines 9/9/9 plan could and WILL easily become 12/12/12 or 33/33/33 in time..
Rope-a-Dope don’t work on ME..
I don't believe that is always true. We recently had our health insurance premiums reduced because of a low claims rate, and the difference was given to the emplyees as an increase in take home pay. Most employees with contracts have such arrangements spelled out.
I, and many other Freepers are self employed, and we know for a fact, that ALL of that money comes out of our pockets, not some mythical ‘employer’.
If you want to believe that uncorns exist, and that the marketplace for employees wouldn’t force employers to give that money to employees, be my guest. The health insurance they provide for employees is also free.
It’s your kind of thinking that has caused many of the countries financial problems.
** You’re lazy!... Are you a democrat?..
These links TOTALLY conflict with your statement LOL.
34/54 does not equal 1/3
Actually, if you did that, you'd be in prison - for failing to pay income taxes.
That was the case when Dad died in ‘08 at 86. His SS monthly payment was more than Mom’s, so her amount was dropped and she received his amount.
BTW, it’s 7.65% paid directly by the employee, plus 7.65% withheld from the employee by the employer.
It’s disappointing that you, and so many others, have such a limited understanding of how capitalism works.
It’s the ignorance that Liberals thrive on.
“Also, military spouses are cut in half.”
Oh, but don’t forget, we have to PAY for that. It’s called the Survivor’s Benefit Plan. it costs hundreds of dollars a month.
My husband and i did the math and it would be cheaper for us to buy him a $1,000,000 life insurance policy at age 41 than to buy the SBP.
The best part? Once my husband dies (IF he goes first) and his military retirement check is cut in half, I STILL HAVE TO KEEP PAYING hundreds of dollars a month to keep that little bit coming in. (I believe that it’ll work out to about 30% of what I would be getting. So I have to pay 30% of my benefits in order to keep my benefits. That’s what I get for giving up college and a career to follow him around the planet during my prime earning years.)
There are no free rides in the military any more. We pay for our benefits, and we pay a LOT.
My bad. I just checked and they changed the rules since I last looked into it. i won’t have to keep paying if hubby dies.
Does this mean my long gone ex can only max out at 50% of my benefit? The last ten years thinking she would get my benefit rate if she outlived me has really ticked me off.
Let me put my 12.4% plus the 15% into an IRA, and I'll be better off.
Because I'll have almost 83% more in my IRA.
You are right, but the American people don’t believe that. They genuinely believe the employer pays “his” half in your name, and you will never convince the sheeple otherwise.
Yes, b ut that hasn't stopped the American people from looking for freebies.
Whats your point?..
You stated in post 21 that only 1/3 of people on SSA are old people.
I asked for substantiation and you posted a link that showed 2/3 of people on SSA are old people.
I just did the math converting the raw numbers to percentage.
No the data shows 1/2 the people are old people..
Thats if the figures are correct.. I suspect they are not..
The bottom line is SSA ISN’T for old people.. its for ALL PEOPLE.,,
Thats the point (my point)..
SSA is hard wired socialism.. that radiates socialism.. even GLOWS with socialism..
Social Security is radioactive..
“BTW, its 7.65% paid directly by the employee, plus 7.65% withheld from the employee by the employer. Total, 15.30%. Its disappointing that you, and so many others, have such a limited understanding of how capitalism works. Its the ignorance that Liberals thrive on.”
You are confusing SS with total payroll taxes, which include medicare. I’m right that SS is 12.4% The other 2.9% is medicare, which is a whole other topic. But I don’t understand the buzz word anger.
“Let me put my 12.4% plus the 15% into an IRA, and I’ll be better off. Because I’ll have almost 83% more in my IRA.”
If you were paying your employee $8/hr and the government $0.48/hr for SS, and they told you you didn’t have to pay the $0.42 to the government, wouldn’t you say, “Good, I’ll keep the $0.42.”? Why on earth do you think employers will randomly hand out 6.2% raises when there is no need for them to do so? Or are you suggesting a big government effort to control wages?
“SSA is hard wired socialism.. that radiates socialism.. even GLOWS with socialism..”
Your definition of socialism is very broad. By that measure, the military radiates socialism, and all vets glow with socialism, as well as all highway workers, postal workers, retirees, Lockheed, Exxon (they socialistically collectivize our oil) and so on.
That's easy. Instead of telling them they have to pay it to the government, tell them they have to pay it into my 401K.
“That’s easy. Instead of telling them they have to pay it to the government, tell them they have to pay it into my 401K.”
Isn’t that big government socialism?
Plus it has this math issue: where does the money come from to cut the current crop of SS checks?
Smaller than we have now, but yes.
Plus it has this math issue: where does the money come from to cut the current crop of SS checks?
Yes, that's the issue.
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