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Ask the Expert: When to collect Social Security survivor, worker benefits



I’m 57-years-old. My husband recently passed away. He had been receiving long-term care through Medicaid, which let me keep most of his monthly Social Security disability checks. These payments stopped with his death. I rolled his small 401(k) and pension into my existing IRA, but I cannot withdraw money without penalty. At 57, am I eligible to receive any of his Social Security retirement benefits? If not, will I be eligible at 62 even if I’m still working? Can I collect his benefit now, or at 62, and then change to my own benefit when I reach full retirement age? I know mine will be larger. Also, if I remarry at any time, would I lose eligibility for my late husband’s Social Security?


The youngest age at which you can claim a survivor Social Security benefit based on your late husband’s record is 60, or 50 if you are disabled. After you turn 60, you can remarry without losing that survivor’s benefit. And yes, you can take your survivor benefit at 60 and switch to your own full benefit at your full retirement age, which is 66 and 10 months.

But until then, working while you collect Social Security may temporarily reduce your monthly benefit. In 2016, if you’re under full retirement age, receive a benefit and work, $1 is deducted from your benefit check for every $2 you earn above $15,720. (Let’s say you earn $30,000, for example — $14,280 above the limit. Your annual benefit would be reduced by $7,140, or $595 a month.) If you reach full retirement age in 2016, you forfeit $1 in benefits for every $3 you earn above $41,880 until your birthday month. Thereafter, your earnings don’t reduce your benefit.

THE BOTTOM LINE Before your full retirement age, working while collecting Social Security may reduce your monthly benefit.


This corrects an earlier version of this story.

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