Social Security Choices

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How Much Are Benefits?

The answer to this question depends on whether your deceased spouse was receiving benefits prior to his or her death. First, let's consider the case in which your spouse had not claimed benefits. In this instance, your benefit at your FRA is the same as the benefit your deceased spouse would have received at his or her FRA, or would have been receiving at the time of death.

Next, let's look at the case in which your spouse claimed benefits prior to dying. In this instance, your benefit at your FRA is usually equal to the amount received by your deceased spouse. For example, suppose your spouse's benefit at his or her FRA was $1,000 a month. However, assume that they had claimed benefits at age 64, so they were receiving only $866 a month. Here, you qualify at your FRA for $866 a month. And, if you claim your widow(er)'s benefit early, that amount is reduced further (see below).

Alternatively, suppose he or she had delayed claiming benefits until age 70, so his or her benefit was $1,320 a month (32 percent greater than the FRA amount). You are entitled to that amount at your FRA.

Please note that if you qualify for a pension from a federal, state or local government based on work where you did not pay Social Security taxes, your Social Security widow(er)'s benefits may be reduced or even eliminated. If you think that you may fall into this category, you should read Government Pension Offset (SSA publication No. 05-10007). If your benefits as a widow(er) are affected by the Government Pension Offset, we cannot do an analysis for you at this time. We are working to incorporate this complication into our software, so check back with us if you fall into this category. We hope to help you in the future.