Q. My daughter is named as the guardian of our disabled son when we both pass away. Will she be entitled to Social Security as the “guardian” of a disabled child? What will the payments be, if any, in relationship to my present Social Security payments?

A. Social Security provides a benefit to a parent caring for a young dependent child or a disabled adult child entitled to benefits. A guardian or other caregiver is not entitled to a benefit.

A surviving disabled adult child is entitled to a benefit equal to 75 percent of the wage earner’s Primary Insurance Amount (PIA). A PIA is the monthly benefit a wage earner receives if he or she begins Social Security retirement benefits in the month full retirement age is reached. If you retired earlier or later, call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 and ask for your Primary Insurance Amount. That will enable you to determine how much your daughter will receive on your son’s behalf when she becomes his guardian.

Q. I am 75 years old; my wife is 61. I did not start collecting Social Security until age 70 and receive about $1,650 per month benefit. How much can my wife expect to receive at my death, assuming it happens this year? What would her benefit be at age 65, 66, 67?

A. If Social Security widow benefits begin at or after full retirement age your wife would receive the same benefit you would receive if still alive. Her widow benefit would be reduced for each month of early retirement if widow benefits begin before she reaches full retirement age. The rate of reduction is approximately 5.7 percent per year. The Social Security Administration can provide you a precise amount if you call 1-800-772-1213 or call or visit your local office.

Q. Is it correct that if my wife receives Social Security based on her own earnings at 62 she cannot switch to 50% of my benefit when I retire? One more question, please. Is there some kind of a “family maximum” that affects how much retirement benefits a married couple can receive? Thanks again.

A. No, that’s not true. Your wife may begin her own reduced Social Security benefit and still qualify for an additional spouse benefit when you begin your benefit. However, a wife who retires early never receives the full 50 percent. Her own early retirement must be taken into consideration. A very simple example may help. Assume your wife’s full retirement age benefit is $400 and your full-retirement age benefit is $1,400. If she begins her benefit at age 62, her early retirement reduction will reduce her benefit to approximately $300. Assuming she is full retirement age when you retire, her $300 monthly payment will increase by $300 – the difference between her full benefit ($400) and half of your full benefit ($700). Her new monthly payment would be $600.

The family maximum does not affect the amount of benefits that can be paid to a married couple when both have been in the work force. Each receives his or her own benefit. There is a family maximum on the amount of benefits that can be paid on a single earnings record. For example, the maximum would be reached if a deceased wage earner left a widow and two dependent children.

Q. When I receive my annual Social Security Statement showing the benefit I am eligible for at various ages, does this amount include my wife’s spousal benefit? If not, how can I determine what it is? And what impact does her age have on the benefit? Since she is 3 years younger than me, I’m assuming her spousal benefit will not begin until she reaches eligibility age.

A. A maximum Social Security spouse benefit is 50 percent of your full-retirement-age benefit. The extra 50 percent is not included in the benefit estimate shown on your Social Security Statement. The spouse benefit is paid in addition to the wage earner’s benefit.

Q. I am nearing retirement age. I have to continue to work due to financial issues but am wondering if I could claim Social Security through my deceased, former husband now and then when I retire, claim benefits on my own record. I was married for 11 years and have never remarried.

A. As a surviving divorced spouse (widow), you have the choice of which benefit to begin first — your own Social Security benefit or your widow’s benefit. You can begin a reduced widow’s benefit as early as age 60 (age 50 if you are disabled) and, if it is more advantageous for you to do so, switch to unreduced benefits on your own record at full retirement age or later. Your own benefit will reach its maximum at age 70.

You may begin benefits while continuing to work, but Social Security beneficiaries who have not yet reached their full retirement age are subject to an annual earnings limitation. In 2019, the limitation is $17,640. The Social Security Administration will withhold $1 in benefits for each $2 of excess earnings.

Before applying for any benefit, you will want to contact the Social Security Administration and obtain up-to-date estimates of the benefits payable on your own and your former husband’s earnings record. Ask for these estimates at your current age, full retirement age and age 70. That information will help you make the decision that is in your long-term best interest.

Q. I would like to begin receiving Social Security benefits at age 62 and would like to know if I can apply only for spousal benefits on my husband’s record now and defer applying on my own record until it reaches its maximum when I turn 70. I will be 62 in December and my husband will be 65 next March.

A. Social Security provides two kinds of benefits to widows, and based on the information you’ve provided, your mother can’t qualify for either at this time.

If your husband is already receiving Social Security, your application for Social Security would apply to both your own benefit and your spouse’s benefit. Each would be reduced for early retirement.

Q. My father passed away three years ago. He had been receiving Social Security. When he passed away, my mother was told she would not be able to draw anything from his record. My father was 79 when he died, and my mother is now 49. There are no children living at home or in school. She was told that if she had children in school, she would still be able to draw his Social Security. Is this right?

A. No. You can’t qualify for spousal benefits on your husband’s Social Security record until he begins to receive them himself. If you apply for benefits before your husband begins his benefits, your application would apply only to benefits on your own record. When your husband begins to receive Social Security, you could then receive the difference, if any, between your full retirement age benefit and half of his full retirement age benefit.

If she hasn’t remarried, however, your mother will be eligible for a widow’s benefit based on your deceased father’s Social Security record when she reaches age 60. She could be eligible for a widow’s benefit as early as age 50 if she becomes disabled. As a widow, she will have a choice as to which benefit to begin first — her own benefit or her widow’s benefit. She can even switch from one to the other if it becomes advantageous to do so. For example, she could begin a reduced widow’s benefit at age 60 and switch to her own unreduced benefit at full retirement age. Alternatively, she could wait until age 62, begin her own reduced benefit and switch to an unreduced widow’s benefit when she reaches full retirement age.


Q. I received benefits on my deceased ex-husband’s Social Security record until I remarried. Now that I am divorced, can I begin receiving benefits on his record again?
A. Yes, since you are now unmarried, you may once more apply for a surviving divorced spouse’s benefit based on your earlier marriage.

Q. I’m 66 years old and have just gone back to full time work. Will my Social Security go up? Does my deceased former husband’s widow have to pass away in order for me to be able to collect on his Social Security record?
A. With regard to your first question, when your Social Security began, the Social Security Administration determined your initial monthly Social Security benefit on an average of your 35 highest years of earnings. Before selecting the highest years, all of your earnings were indexed to bring them up to date. Your new earnings will increase your benefit if the amount you earn in a year exceeds the earnings in one of the years used in determining your initial benefit.

An automatic recalculation takes place each year whenever new earnings are credited to a retiree’s earnings record. If a year of new earnings exceeds one of the years used previously in determining your initial benefit, monthly benefits increase. Regardless of when this recalculation takes place, the benefit increase is retroactive to the previous January. If new earnings do not increase the lifetime average on which the initial benefit was based, the only increase you will receive is the annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA.

Regarding your second question, you can qualify for surviving divorced spouse’s benefits if your marriage lasted at least 10 years before ending in divorce. The fact that your former husband left a widow has no bearing on your eligibility for a survivor’s benefit.

Q. Have there been any changes regarding Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and investing? Is it still not considered earned income?

A. There has been no change in the definition of earnings for recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Earnings are income received from employment or self-employment. Profits on investments are not earnings for earnings limitation purposes or as a measure of whether or not a disabled individual has regained the ability to perform substantial gainful activity.