Many people overlook the importance of benefits for the surviving spouse when they initially file for Social Security.
Postponing collection of benefits can earn workers 8% in delayed retirement credits every year from full retirement age to age 70.
Since survivor benefits will reflect any delayed credits, this is a very important strategy for the higher earning spouse.
If the higher earning spouse dies first, the higher benefit transfers to the survivor and continues for the rest of their life.
Even if the higher earning spouse dies before ever claiming a benefit, those credits earned will still boost the survivor benefits.
To be eligible for survivor benefits, the survivor had to have been married for at least 9 months or be a caregiver of the deceased’s child under age 16. The surviving spouse can claim survivor benefits as early as age 60, or 50 if disabled, but the benefit will be reduced. By waiting until full retirement age, the surviving spouse can collect 100% of the late worker's benefits, including any delayed credits.
Decisions on when to begin receiving Social Security benefits have a lifelong impact for you and your spouse.
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