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Survivors benefits

I am 64 and receive survivors benefits from a divorced spouse for 1 1/2 years.  I have very little work history, my question is at retirement age of 67 will my benefits change to his retirement benefits and increase?

Denise MacColeman
Conversationalist

@Dlynnemac As I understand your posting, you are asking if your survivor benefit (which is based on your deceased ex-spouse's (worker) earnings record) will increase when you attain age 67. I believe the answer is no. Generally, survivor benefits are available between age 60 and Full Retirement Age (FRA) at 71.5% to 99% of the worker's SS benefit. At FRA, the survivor benefit is 100%. Your survivor benefit was reduced when you elected to start early, at approximately age 62.5. Moreover, if the worker started receiving SS benefits before FRA, SS cannot pay a FRA benefit amount on the worker's earning record. If the person who died was receiving reduced SS benefits, the survivor benefit is based on that amount. You will receive cost of living increases when available.

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Honored Social Butterfly

Survivor's benefits. well I do have not a question  but a pet peeve.  My hustband and I have SS but if he dies first. Of course I will retain his. but I will loose mine which is just a little lower than his. So why can't at least get a % of my own SS? I worked and paid into it.? 

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@Roxanna35 wrote:

My hustband and I have SS but if he dies first. Of course I will retain his. but I will loose mine which is just a little lower than his. So why can't at least get a % of my own SS? I worked and paid into it.? 


You didn't pay into his benefit - So would you rather just get your own, which you worked and paid into?  Or would you rather get the higher amount, regardless of how it is labeled?

@fffred  is right in how SSA computes a Survivor's Benefit when both have their own benefit.  The higher amount gets paid to the survivor - 

SS is an individual program with Spousal benefits and Survivors benefits.

 

Think about this -

  • one spouse works, the other stays at home for the kids and household.
  • The spouse that works has worked long enough to be vested in the whole SS program - SS Disability as well as retirement when the time comes as long as this spouse keeps working. 
  • They are both in their mid to higher 40's.  The working spouse makes a pretty good salary - they are comfortable and thrifty in their lifestyle.
  • The stay at home spouse is involved in a devastating accident and is left totally and fully disabled - forever. 
  • NO SS DISABILITY for this spouse.  The working spouse now has to hire help for the household, kids and a fulltime caregiver for the (now) disabled spouse but yet the disabled spouse has no SS Disability benefit - 
  • the disabled spouse will be able to get a Spousal Benefit when the working spouse has filed for retirement benefit and the disabled spouse is old enough or has dependent children.
  • the disabled spouse will be able to get a Survivors Benefit when the working spouse dies
  • But until one of those last few things occur - the disabled spouse gets nothing because they have NO SSDI benefit because they have paid nothing (or perhaps only a little, not enough to be vested) for themselves into the program.
  • The disabled spouse gets NO SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefit because the couple has too much money and assets for this disability program cause it is base on age, disability and income/assets.

Count your blessings -

 

 

It's Always Something . . . . Roseanna Roseannadanna
Gold Conversationalist

@Roxanna35 

 

My understanding from past research is that a surviving spouse who has their own SS retirement benefit will receive a benefit amount equal to the larger of the two spouses' benefits (assuming that the surviving spouse begins to collect survivor benefits at their full retirement age of old; otherwise, the benefit would be reduced for early age). But the total benefit is the combined sum:

 

  • (their own retirement benefit) + (the difference between the deceased spouse's benefit and their own retirement benefit   ...but not less than zero; so if the surviving spouse had the greater retirement benefit they won't get any survivor benefit from the deceased spouse)

 

So the entire benefit does come to the same amount: the larger of the two spouses' retirement benefit. It is just that the "source" of the funds is different. This is just a number's game of course because Social Security funds are not in individual accounts.

 

There are some subtleties that may come in depending on if the survivor is younger than their FRA or not. If so, and if they are receiving their own worker's benefit, they can elect to postpone their survivor's benefit until FRA. If they don't have their own worker's benefit, but are receiving spousal benefit at age younger than FRA (a situation that my own wife could find herself in and for which I have planned) then there is no such election, their benefit is automatically converted from spousal to survivor.

 

I hope this is all clear. Perhaps it will salve that resentment a little bit.

 

I will be off now to find those particular rules in the SS pages so I can provide links.

 

edit to add:

• a useful article https://www.aarp.org/retirement/social-security/questions-answers/eligible-retirement-and-survivor-b...

• https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10084.pdf
mentions on page 5 "If you’re getting benefits based on your own work, call or visit us. We’ll check to see if you can get more money as a widow or widower. If so, you’ll get a combination of benefits that equals the higher amount."

 

• https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/applying7.html

adds "If your spouse qualifies for benefits on their own record, we will pay that amount first. If the benefit on your record is higher, they will get an additional amount on your record so that the combination of benefits equals that higher amount."

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Gold Conversationalist

@Dlynnemac 

If you have worked and paid into Social Security, have you visited the SS web site and created an account? The United States Social Security Administration (ssa.gov)

Be sure to look at the FAQs. Do you have a local SS Office nearby? If yes, have you visited and talked with them?

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Honored Social Butterfly

You are probably already getting the highest benefit because even though your Ex on whom your benefits are based was not yet receiving any benefits, this person had to have been at least 62 years of age and be entitled to SS Retirement or Disability benefits before you could have gotten the Divorced Spouse benefit. 

 

In much the same way as the SSA can compute full retirement age or normal retirement age benefits in those benefit letters (now online) to people who are forecasting their retirement - the same figures are used to compute your type of benefit in this case; so it is very close - (its a complicated formula)

SSA.gov - Indexing Factors For Earnings 

Once the forecasted benefit is computed - a divorced spouse's whole part of it at their FRA is 50% of this benefit - they deducted a % of it because you elected to receive this benefit before your FRA.  Your deduction will always be there.

 

I will say that there might be RARE times when the person on whom the benefits are based could all of a sudden begin to make a much bigger salary (up to the cap) in those last years between age 62 and their Full or normal retirement age that it could throw the figures off a little - but benefits are based on 35 years of earnings.

 

ALSO, who knows what 2020, our pandemic year, could do for these computations especially if the person could have been unemployed for the entire year + some.

 

Guess, you can always check when the beneficiary reaches their FRA but I would not hold out too much hope for an increase.  Sorry.

 

 

 

It's Always Something . . . . Roseanna Roseannadanna
Gold Conversationalist

I agree with everything that @GailL1 said.

 

Although perhaps a bit of a caveat... Since you @Dlynnemac are collecting "survivor" benefits on the ex-spouse I don't think it is too likely that your ex- will be increasing his earnings over the next few years.  ;- )

 

It is a good point about that the pandemic may produce problems for SS earners and for SS recipients overall.

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@fffred wrote:

 

It is a good point about that the pandemic may produce problems for SS earners and for SS recipients overall.


It is complicated - but the brains (actuaries and legislators) are working on it. 

It's Always Something . . . . Roseanna Roseannadanna
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