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Q&A: "If I Take my Social Security Retirement Benefits at Age 62, and my Husband Takes His Retirement Benefits at FRA (Age 66), What Would be my 'Survivor Benefits' if he Dies?"

Social Security

Question and background: 

If I take my social security retirement benefits at age 62, and my husband takes his retirement benefits at FRA (age 66), what would be my "survivor benefits" if he dies? Would I be entitled to his full retirement benefits at that point? (His social security is much higher than mine.) (We will be married for over 10 years by the time he retires.)

Larry's answer: 

Not knowing your current ages, here's how it would work out using a couple of different examples....

Unfortunate Scenario #1 

You draw your own reduced social security benefit at 62, your husband waits until his age 66, but your husband unfortunately dies before his age 66. You can:

1) Elect before you reach your age 66 to receive a reduced widows benefit. A widow or widower (not caring for children) can collect as early as age 60. Depending on your age (between 60 and 66), you'd receive between 71% to 99% of your husband's full retirement benefit. 

or

2) Continue receiving your own reduced benefit and then switch over to 100% of your husband's higher benefit when you reach age 66. (A better choice, if you could afford the wait.)

Happy Scenario #2 

You draw your own reduced benefit at 62, your husband waits until his age 66, and you both live many happy years together, with your husband passing some time before you (but way down the road!). 

Since your husband waits until Full Retirement Age (FRA) at age 66 to file his benefit and you'd be over 66 when he passes, your widows benefit would be 100% of what your husband is receiving at that time.

I'd encourage you folks to find a good financial planner with expertise in these matters to help you analyze different claiming strategies using your actual social security data. Too many people are leaving a lot of money on the table with their claiming. You'll find it to be time and money well spent.

Hope that helps. All the best!

Originally posted on NerdWallet's Ask an Advisor on June 17, 2014.