What are The Options with Spousal Social Security Benefits?

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Navigating the intricacies of surviving spousal Social Security benefits can be challenging. However, understanding the rules and making strategic decisions about when to start benefits can have a significant impact on your financial well-being. One key strategy is to consider postponing the larger benefit if you can afford to wait and are in good health.

Special Benefits for Surviving Spousal Social Security Benefits

Surviving spousal Social Security benefits come with unique options. You can start collecting a reduced survivor benefit as early as age 60. Alternatively, you can take your own reduced benefit as early as age 62 and later switch to your full survivor benefit. This flexibility allows you to optimize your benefits based on your financial needs and life expectancy.

Early Survivor Benefits

Starting survivor benefits at age 60 results in a reduced amount. For example, if your full survivor benefit would be $2,000 per month at your full retirement age (FRA) of 67, starting at age 60 would reduce your benefit by a significant percentage. Specifically, at age 60, you would receive only about 71.5% of the full survivor benefit, which equates to $1,430 per month. This reduction is permanent, and you would receive this reduced benefit for the rest of your life.

Switching to Your Own Benefit

Another option is to start with your own reduced benefit at age 62 and switch to your full survivor benefit later. For instance, if your own benefit at FRA is $1,800 but you start at age 62, you would receive about 70% of your benefit, or $1,260 per month. When you reach FRA, you can switch to the full survivor benefit, which in this example, would be $2,000 per month.

Postponing the Larger Benefit

In general, it is often beneficial to postpone the larger benefit if you can afford to wait and are in good health. Social Security benefits are already reduced when taken before your FRA. For example, if you took the larger survivor benefit at age 62, you would only receive 79.6% of the larger benefit. In our example, instead of receiving $2,000 per month, you would receive $1,592. This reduction is permanent, and you would receive this lower amount for the rest of your life.

If you can wait until your FRA of 67, you would receive the full $2,000 per month survivor benefit. This higher benefit can make a substantial difference in your financial security over the long term.

Example Scenario

Consider a scenario where you are a surviving spouse turning 60 in March 2025. If you start survivor benefits immediately, you would receive a reduced amount. However, if you wait until your FRA of 67, you would receive the full benefit. On the other hand, you could take your own reduced benefit at age 62, which would be lower, and switch to the full survivor benefit at FRA.

For example, if the full survivor benefit is $2,000 per month at FRA and you start at age 60, you would receive $1,430 per month. If you take your own benefit at age 62, and it is $1,800 at FRA, you would receive $1,260 per month and then switch to the $2,000 per month survivor benefit at FRA.

Strategic Considerations

Deciding when to start Social Security benefits involves several factors, including your financial needs, health, and life expectancy. If you are in good health and can afford to wait, postponing the larger benefit can provide greater financial security in the long run. This strategy ensures you receive a higher monthly benefit for life, which can be particularly important given the rising costs of living and healthcare.


Maximizing your Social Security benefits as a surviving spouse requires careful planning and consideration of your unique circumstances. Understanding the rules and options available can help you make informed decisions that enhance your financial security. Given the complexities involved, consulting with an independent Fee-Only financial adviser can be invaluable. They can provide personalized guidance tailored to your specific situation, helping you navigate the nuances of Social Security benefits and optimize your financial strategy.

About This Article

This article was published and distributed by SocialSecurity-Adviser.com, a trusted source of independent ideas. It should be viewed as general and educational information and not as financial, tax or legal advice. Individuals seeking advice tailored to their specific situation are encouraged to schedule a free consultation with a professional listed in the 1800Adviser.com directory. Both SocialSecurity-Adviser.com and 1800Adviser.com are owned and operated by The Independent Adviser Corporation. For additional information, please refer to their Privacy Policy and Terms of Use, Legal Notices, and Disclaimer.

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