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Old 05-22-2020, 12:26 PM
Wesley Clark's Avatar
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How do social security spousal benefits work


Assume you have a retired couple, one worked and one was a homemaker their adult lives.

I believe SS is set up so the one who worked gets their SS benefits (lets say $1500/month) and their spouse who was a homemaker gets half the working spouses benefits ($750/month).

So what happens if one or the other dies after they claim SS?

Lets say the main wage earner died, does his spouse who claimed SS as a homemaker get any of his benefit? If so, what percentage.

What if the one who was the homemaker dies, does the spouse who was the wage earner get any of their spouses benefits?
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Old 05-22-2020, 02:36 PM
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When the main wage earner dies the spouse's benefits are converted to widow's benefits, which are usually equal to whatever the main wage earner was receiving at the time of death. There may be some adjustment if the spouse (homemaker) was under full retirement age at the time of the main wage earner's death.

When the spouse dies, their benefits stop, and there is no change in the main wage earner's benefits.

You might want to check www.ssa.gov for more detailed information.
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Old 05-22-2020, 02:40 PM
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Originally Posted by LurkMeister View Post
When the main wage earner dies the spouse's benefits are converted to widow's benefits, which are usually equal to whatever the main wage earner was receiving at the time of death. There may be some adjustment if the spouse (homemaker) was under full retirement age at the time of the main wage earner's death.

When the spouse dies, their benefits stop, and there is no change in the main wage earner's benefits.

You might want to check www.ssa.gov for more detailed information.
So in my scenario, they are earning a combined $2250 a month due to his $1500 and her $750.

So if he dies, she gets $1500 going forward (assuming she is full retirement age).

If she dies, he keeps his $1500 but her $750 disappears?
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Old 05-23-2020, 10:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Wesley Clark View Post
So in my scenario, they are earning a combined $2250 a month due to his $1500 and her $750.

So if he dies, she gets $1500 going forward (assuming she is full retirement age).

If she dies, he keeps his $1500 but her $750 disappears?
Yes,

In my case I am getting SS monthly, and my wife is getting her SS monthly. When I die she will have the choice of receiving my benefit or continuing hers. Mine is more than hers so she will be able to get my SS benefit and no longer receive hers.
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Old 05-23-2020, 11:38 AM
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Yes,

In my case I am getting SS monthly, and my wife is getting her SS monthly. When I die she will have the choice of receiving my benefit or continuing hers. Mine is more than hers so she will be able to get my SS benefit and no longer receive hers.
Technically she continues to collect hers, then gets an added benefit from yours to bring the total benefit up to the rate that you are currently collecting. It's a distinction without a difference from her point of view, but it relieves the social security people of the obligation of explaining why she lost her benefits when you're the dead one.
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Old 05-23-2020, 02:06 PM
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Technically she continues to collect hers, then gets an added benefit from yours to bring the total benefit up to the rate that you are currently collecting. It's a distinction without a difference from her point of view, but it relieves the social security people of the obligation of explaining why she lost her benefits when you're the dead one.
That applies more broadly. When I got to my full benefits at 70 my wife will switch to getting half mine, which is more than her full benefits. But technically she'll receive her benefits and then extra until it reaches half mine. So technically she does not give up her benefits when she goes on spousal benefits.
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Old 05-24-2020, 07:44 AM
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That applies more broadly. When I got to my full benefits at 70 my wife will switch to getting half mine, which is more than her full benefits. But technically she'll receive her benefits and then extra until it reaches half mine. So technically she does not give up her benefits when she goes on spousal benefits.
She won't get half of your age 70 benefits, but rather half of your benefits at full retirement age (FRA), which varies with birth date. She won't get the approximate 8% per year add on for waiting past FRA. If you should predecease her her widows benefit will include the add on for waiting.
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