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Ask the Retirement Expert: Can I Get Social Security Survivor Benefits?

Amy Jamrog, CLU®, ChFC®, CASL® •  April 22, 2016 | Enjoying Retirement, Your Finances, Ask the Expert

Each week our Northwestern Mutual retirement experts answer your questions. This week’s question:

By Amy Jamrog, CLU® ChFC® CASL®

Amy has been a Wealth Management Advisor with Northwestern Mutual since 1999. She has achieved company, industry and community recognition since her first year in business. Over the past 16 years, she and her team have developed a specialty in helping baby boomers with retirement income planning.

Can I get Social Security Survivor Benefits?

If you are married and your spouse passes away, you may be entitled to Social Security Survivor Benefits. First, your deceased spouse must have paid into the system for enough time to have been eligible (at least 10 years). Second, you will need to have been married for at least one year.

Typically you are eligible to collect Survivor Benefits as early as age 60, but if you do choose to collect that early, your benefits will be reduced by 25 percent. You may instead choose to collect your full Survivor Benefit at your full retirement age (based on your date of birth, that can be anywhere from age 66 to age 67). You may also choose to increase your Survivor Benefits by delaying collecting until age 70. 

Which option is best for you? That will depend on a number of factors, and it’s always wise to consult a financial professional about this. You want to consider your health: If you are healthy and have longevity in your family, it might be better for you to delay collecting so you maximize your benefits throughout retirement. Are you considering getting remarried in the future? This may affect your ability to collect survivor benefits depending on your age when you remarry. And then there’s your own Social Security benefit to consider.

While this question seems simple, Social Security is a complex system, old rules can change, and it’s important to really understand and analyze your options.

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