Author Topic: Widow Social Security Benefits  (Read 1388 times)

Loren Ver

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Widow Social Security Benefits
« on: January 26, 2022, 06:37:20 AM »
Hello,

I am working with someone that was recently widowed. I am splitting up my questions so I don't end up with a giant ball my poor brain can't tease through.

The widow is 55 and hasn't worked in 20 years.  The deceased husband (52 upon death) worked and would have had his required quarters in.  After some googling, it looks like widow can start claiming (reduced) benefits as early as her turning 60.  (Correct me if I am wrong)

So my question is, when is the best time to start taking benefits?  I've heard that taking them earlier (as early as possible?) is mathematically better since time is greater than the money, but there should be a flipping point.  Has someone worked this out? 

If not, I could do it, but I am terrible at modeling.  I do everything the long stupid way, it works, it's just...clunky and simplistic. 

The widow is hesitant to start taking the benefits early because the amount is reduced, make sense, more money is better, but I'm thinking time might be a bigger contributor (no one lives forever).  I'd like to be confident going into any future conversations we have about this as we start to build her a larger long term strategy. 

Note- the money would be spent, not invested.


Thank you for your help.

Loren

terran

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Re: Widow Social Security Benefits
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2022, 07:04:09 AM »
The advice I've usually run across is to wait, but I've never seen (or at least paid attention to) much about widow(er) benefits, so there might be alternate advice there. If the advice is the typical suggestion to wait, then the real question there is does she have the resources to support herself until she takes social security? If not, then it doesn't really matter what the math says, you take social security as soon as you can to support yourself.

I would suggest running her numbers through https://opensocialsecurity.com/ as a good starting point. When I put in a 50 year old woman without a benefit on her own record with a deceased 52 year old husband it says she should claim at 64 years 2 months old. It would be worth digging in to try to figure out why it's making that suggestion.

Make sure she knows not to get remarried as that will mean she can't claim on her husbands death regardless of what happens with the new marriage. For example, divorce before the 10 years it would take for her to be eligible for her new husband's benefit would mean she wouldn't be eligible for anything.

If there are any kids in the picture (under 18, I think under 22 and in college, or disabled) then they/she could get some benefits now.

neo von retorch

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Re: Widow Social Security Benefits
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2022, 07:15:37 AM »
It takes something like 13 years for the "take later" to catch up to the take earlier.

This chart doesn't factor in things like taxes, and if you were in your peak earning years in your mid 60s, that could change everything as you might actually increase SS by earning more. For anyone in the running for early retirement, this chart demonstrates that the earlier you take SS, the more money you end up with, except for people that expect to live well into their 80s.

Always a useful scenario tool for this question: https://engaging-data.com/will-money-last-retire-early/

Loren Ver

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Re: Widow Social Security Benefits
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2022, 06:30:37 PM »
@terran Thank you for the link, I didn't know that existed!  I'll do more poking around. There is a 17 year old child with mild autism.  They are looking into getting benefits.

@neo von retorch Thank you for running the numbers!

BikeFanatic

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Re: Widow Social Security Benefits
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2022, 03:12:38 AM »
With a dependent child there are benefits available do they end at age 18 , not sure.

davisgang90

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Re: Widow Social Security Benefits
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2022, 04:58:34 AM »
Depending on the child's autism and ability to work, they may be eligible for SSI of up to ~$800 a month. Either now, or certainly when they turn 18.

I've got a 23 year old with Autism and we've been through most of the hoops if you have questions, although benefits can vary by state.

Some important questions to consider/research:
Medicaid/Medicare for the dependent with autism
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Able Accounts - Account that allows disabled to save more than the asset tested $2K
Special Needs Trusts - Account for long term care of individual, also protected from asset test limits of SSA and Medicaid
Able and SNT sound very similar but can serve different purposes
Guardianship versus other options when the dependent turns 18

feelingroovy

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Re: Widow Social Security Benefits
« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2022, 05:38:53 AM »
The child is definitely eligible for survivor benefits. Those last until the child turns 18 or until graduates from high school, whichever comes last.

A parent without other or low income who is caring for that child can also get benefits, though that ends when the youngest child turns 16. It looks though, that rules are different for a disabled child.

Lots of info here https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/survivors/

Anon-E-Mouze

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Re: Widow Social Security Benefits
« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2022, 10:10:46 AM »
Your question is very timely. The New York Times published an article yesterday highlighting a number of tech tools that can be used to help people make decisions about social security. Some of the tools/services mentioned require fees but a few are free.

It sounds a bit non-MMM, but it may be worth paying a small fee (e.g. $50) to get a robust report that covers a range of scenarios. We might end up doing this especially because our SS situation is quite complex (2 working spouses with enough SS credits to get pensions, plus Canada Pension Plan payments that likely will reduce our pensions plus one government employer pension that also might reduce our SS pension).

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/28/business/social-security-retirement.html




secondcor521

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Re: Widow Social Security Benefits
« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2022, 10:38:22 AM »
The advice I've usually run across is to wait, but I've never seen (or at least paid attention to) much about widow(er) benefits, so there might be alternate advice there. If the advice is the typical suggestion to wait, then the real question there is does she have the resources to support herself until she takes social security? If not, then it doesn't really matter what the math says, you take social security as soon as you can to support yourself.

I would suggest running her numbers through https://opensocialsecurity.com/ as a good starting point. When I put in a 50 year old woman without a benefit on her own record with a deceased 52 year old husband it says she should claim at 64 years 2 months old. It would be worth digging in to try to figure out why it's making that suggestion.

Make sure she knows not to get remarried as that will mean she can't claim on her husbands death regardless of what happens with the new marriage. For example, divorce before the 10 years it would take for her to be eligible for her new husband's benefit would mean she wouldn't be eligible for anything.

If there are any kids in the picture (under 18, I think under 22 and in college, or disabled) then they/she could get some benefits now.

The above is excellent advice.

I'll just add two things:

The Open Social Security website is the best and most frequently recommended tool out there.  You might note the checkbox at the top which enables additional inputs including disabled dependents.  The tool is fairly sensitive to the discount rate used, so that should be selected carefully with the widower's situation in mind.

Although she may lose her entitlement to widower benefits on her deceased husband's work history if she remarries, I think she may then qualify for spousal benefits on her new husband's work history after one year of marriage.  And if that marriage ends, she may become re-entitled to widower benefits on her first husband's work history (in addition to potential widower and/or divorced spousal benefits on her second husband's work history, depending).  But I'm certainly no SS expert, especially in these more complicated situations.

Loren Ver

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Re: Widow Social Security Benefits
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2022, 07:29:46 PM »
Thank you all for your replies and all the good information.

That calculator is even better than I thought.  The first time though I missed the little button you mentioned @secondcor521  then things really got interesting :). 

The mother has a meeting with the social security folks in ...two weeks I think.   The main goal is to talk about benefits for the disabled son ($9000/year per calculator), but I am going to recommend she also talks about mother benefits which I didn't know existed until this thread.  That could be a $9000/year heads up!  For over 10 years! 

She doesn't want to do anything that is going to limit her son's potential to flourish as an independent individual.  She doesn't know how successful he will be, but she doesn't want a money grab or a label to be the thing to stop him. 

@davisgang90  I know this isn't a hoop, nor an asset limitation, but this process shouldn't have a negative ramification on her son's future correct?  He already has documented autism with an IEP at school.  But she says most people that spent time talking to him can't tell he is autistic.   If you don't mind my asking....

Thank you all again!

Loren

secondcor521

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Re: Widow Social Security Benefits
« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2022, 07:37:15 PM »
She doesn't want to do anything that is going to limit her son's potential to flourish as an independent individual.  She doesn't know how successful he will be, but she doesn't want a money grab or a label to be the thing to stop him. 

I'm not sure if the son qualifies as disabled or not.  That might be a determination made by the SSA.

I don't know much about them, but you might also read up on ABLE accounts.  My limited understanding is that they are ways for disabled individuals to accumulate assets without losing various government benefits that might otherwise have asset or income limitations.  The son might be able to make use of one.

Whether she collects SS benefits as a widower with a disabled child or just as a widower, I think she has a great deal of influence on how he sees the situation and himself.  That's more a result and a matter of good parenting than any of the other stuff IMHO.

davisgang90

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Re: Widow Social Security Benefits
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2022, 05:13:00 AM »
She doesn't want to do anything that is going to limit her son's potential to flourish as an independent individual.  She doesn't know how successful he will be, but she doesn't want a money grab or a label to be the thing to stop him. 

@davisgang90  I know this isn't a hoop, nor an asset limitation, but this process shouldn't have a negative ramification on her son's future correct?  He already has documented autism with an IEP at school.  But she says most people that spent time talking to him can't tell he is autistic.   If you don't mind my asking....

The son receiving SSI shouldn't have any negative ramifications. If he is as high functioning as you describe, he may not qualify for SSI, but if he qualifies for an ABLE account, that can be a great way to save with tax benefits. My son has pretty obvious autism and has difficulty with some communication, so he easily qualified.

She will need paperwork from the doctor to describe the son's autism to SSA so they can determine if it will impact him. There may be services local to the community that can assist with navigating some of these issues.

There may be an ARC chapter https://thearc.org/ or a state-run program. In Virginia we have DARS https://www.vda.virginia.gov/ which can provide some guidance on receiving services and such. Lots to unpack, I'd recommend she find a local advocate to help.

This podcast is a good one for unpacking Special Needs Trusts, Medicare, Guardianship and other alternatives and more. I recently was interviewed for this podcast (episode isn't out yet) based on being a retired military dad with a son with autism.
https://momautismmoney.com/

One more thought on the school system. In Virginia, the disabled students were eligible for 4 years of occupational skills training including interning at job sites through the school system. My son was able to take advantage of this and it really helped him prepare for employment. Might be something else to ask about at an IEP meeting.

Best,
Rich

Loren Ver

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Re: Widow Social Security Benefits
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2022, 08:44:12 AM »
Thank you both!  I'll start looking into those!