During the arrangement conference, I am often asked about Social Security income. Many Americans are confused about how benefits are calculated and how the death of their spouse affects their benefit status. It is noteworthy that the Social Security Administration points out that, “Social Security was never meant to be the only source of income for people when they retire. Social Security replaces about 40 percent of an average wage earner’s income after retiring, and most financial advisors say retirees will need 70 percent or more of pre-retirement earnings to live comfortably. To have a comfortable retirement, Americans need more than Social Security. They also need private pensions, savings and investments.” (Understand the Benefits, Social Security Administration, 2017)
In light of that revelation, here are a few facts regarding Social Security Benefits for survivors. Survivor benefit amounts are based on the earnings of the person who died. The more they paid into Social Security, the higher your benefit will be.
The monthly amount you would receive is a percentage of the deceased’s basic Social Security benefit. Your age and type of benefit you would be eligible to receive also factor in.
If your decedent was receiving reduced benefits at time of death, your benefit will be based off of that category. The maximum benefit amount is limited to what your decedent would receive if they were still alive.
Full retirement age
Currently, the full retirement age is 66 years and 2 months for people born in 1955, and it will gradually rise to 67 for those born in 1960 or later. Early retirement benefits are available at age 62, however, they are paid at a reduced rate.
The following are example of the benefits that survivors may receive:
A widow or widower at full retirement age or older receives 100% of the deceased worker’s benefit amount.
A widow or widower, age 60 through full retirement age receives 71.5% to 99% of the deceased worker’s benefit amount.
A disabled widow or widower aged 50 through 59 receives 71.5% of the deceased worker’s benefit amount.
A child under age 18 (19 if still in elementary or secondary school) or disabled receives 75% of deceased worker’s benefit.
Dependent parent(s) age 62 or older:
One surviving parent receives 82.5% of deceased worker’s benefit
Two surviving parents receive 75% each
Percentages for a surviving divorced widow or widower would be the same as above.
There may also be a special lump-sum death benefit paid to a surviving spouse or to a dependent child, whatever the circumstance present. Currently, this sum is $255. (www.ssa.gov/ifyou5.html)
Other things you need to know
There are limits on how much survivors may earn while they receive benefits. If you are under full retirement age in 2018, your limit would be $17,040. If you are full retirement age or will reach full retirement age in 2018, your limit would be $45,360. (www.ssa.gov/whileworking.html)
Benefits for a widow, widower or surviving divorced spouse may be affected if you remarry if you are eligible for retirement benefits on your own record and if you will receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security. (www.ssa.gov/otherthings.html)
Tracy Renee Lee is managing funeral director for Queen City Funeral Home in Queen City, Texas. She is an author, syndicated columnist and Certified Grief Counselor. She writes books, weekly bereavement articles, and grief briefs related to understanding and coping with grief. She is the American Funeral Director of the Year runner-up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award. She delivers powerful messages and motivates audiences toward positive recovery. It is her life’s work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. For additional encouragement and to read other articles or watch video “Grief Briefs,” visit www.MourningCoffee.com.