The Widow(er) Limit for Social Security Benefits

The widow calculation says that the surviving spouse receives the higher of his or her own Social Security benefit, or the benefit of the deceased (which may have been reduced or increased depending on if, and when, the deceased filed for Social Security benefits). But there are several layers of complexity to the widow(er) benefit that make it difficult to determine whether to claim widow(er) benefits early, when to wait, and when to switch to the survivor’s own benefit. Learn more about the complexity of the widow(er) benefit this week in our FinPlan Friday discussion with Joe.

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FinPlan Fridays

In our video blog series, FinPlan Fridays, Covisum® Founder and President, Joe Elsasser, CFP®, offers his take on the issues financial advisors see every day. Joe is a practicing financial planner with a unique perspective into the challenges for which Covisum provides technology solutions. Join us on the first Friday of every month for FinPlan Fridays, and get helpful tips to grow your financial planning practice. 


Welcome to today's FinPlan Friday. Today, we're going to talk a little bit about the widow limit for Social Security benefits. Now, the widow limit states that as a survivor, I can receive the higher of what the deceased was actually receiving as a percentage of their primary insurance amount or 82.5% of the deceased's primary insurance amount.

The reason that's relevant is because if the deceased had claimed prior to full retirement age, let's say that their full retirement age was 66 and they had claimed at 62 and then died, they would have been receiving only 75% of their primary insurance amount at the time of their death. Now, since 82.5% is higher than that 75%, the 82.5% is the most that I can get as the survivor.

Now, in order to get that 82.5%, I cannot take my widow's benefit at age 60. I would have to delay. And I would have to delay until depending on when my full retirement age as a widow is, which can be different than my full retirement age for retirement benefits. I would have to delay to roughly 62 and 4 months for that widow benefit. What I would not want to do is delay my widow benefit all the way to full retirement age, because if I do that, it will not have grown at all. I will simply have been missing checks between roughly age 62 and 4 months and my full retirement age.

Whether you use Social Security Timing® to optimize a Social Security strategy, Tax Clarity to identify tax opportunities, or SmartRisk™ to analyze portfolio risk, these software options can aid in growing and expanding your business. Combine these tools with Income InSight® to create one space to illustrate multiple financial planning techniques and show clients what their retirement could look like.

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