Q: I’m curious about some information my lady friend received last fall from her local Social Security office. When her husband died at age 65, she was told to take widow’s benefits now, when she was 62, and when she turned 70 piggyback her own Social Security payments onto her widow’s benefit. 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’s benefit or a survivor’s benefit based on her deceased husband’s record. 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’s benefit at full retirement age. Alternatively, if her own benefit will ultimately be larger, she can begin with a reduced widow’s benefit and switch to her own benefit when it is advantageous for her to do so. Her own benefit doesn’t “piggy-back” onto her widow’s benefit. Instead, her own higher benefit would replace her widow’s benefit.