Q. I’m curious about some information my lady friend received last fall from her local social security office. When her husband died (age 65), she (age 62) was told to take the widow benefit now and when she turned 70 piggyback her own social security payments onto her widow’s benefits. I thought it was one or the other, not both.

A. Your friend received excellent counseling from her local Social Security office. A widow (or widower) has the option of choosing which benefit to begin first – her own worker benefit or a survivor benefit based on her deceased husband’s earnings. She can even switch from one to the other if it is to her advantage to do so.

Many times it is to a widow’s long-term advantage to begin her own reduced retirement benefit at or after age 62 and switch to an unreduced widow benefit at full retirement age. In reverse, if her own benefit will ultimately be larger, she can begin a reduced widow benefit and switch to her own benefit at any time it becomes larger. Her own benefit does not “piggy-back” on her widow check – her own benefit would replace her widow benefit.

A worker’s own benefit reaches its maximum at age 70. Delayed retirement credits (the opposite of early retirement reductions) are added to a worker’s own benefit for each month benefits are deferred after full retirement age up to age 70.