Blog , Finance

What Social Security Benefit Will My Wife Get If I Die? – Ask Rusty

Posted on Monday, May 13, 2019
by Russell Gloor, AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor

Dear Rusty: I am 69 and have been holding off on collecting my Social Security payment until I’m 70 on the assumption that my wife would collect my benefit if I died first. My thought was that she would collect the monthly benefit I will earn at age 70 in the event of my death. Now a Social Security employee is telling me she would only be entitled to what my benefit would have been at age 66 (my full retirement age). That is about a $800 drop in monthly benefits from what I thought it would be. My wife is 1 year younger than me, much healthier than I am, has mostly worked part time and she started collecting her SS at age 62 and gets about $700 a month. So, is the Social Security employee correct? Signed: Concerned Husband

Dear Concerned: The Social Security employee you spoke with might have misunderstood your question. It sounds like the answer you were given pertained to the benefit your wife is entitled to as your spouse while you are living, which is based upon your “primary insurance amount”, or “PIA” (your PIA is the amount you were due at your full retirement age, or “FRA”).

When you claim your increased benefit at age 70 your wife can apply for her spousal benefit which will be based on your FRA benefit amount (not the increased amount you’ll get by waiting until age 70 to claim). She gets that spousal benefit if it is more than she is receiving on her own work record, which from what you’ve told me it will be. What actually happens is that she will continue to get her own benefit and she will also get a supplemental amount to make her total Social Security benefit equal to what she is entitled to as your spouse. That amount will be a bit less than half of your FRA benefit because she took her own benefit at age 62 (claiming Social Security early doesn’t only affect one’s own benefit, it affects their spousal benefit also). The spousal benefit your wife gets when you claim at age 70 will continue for as long as you are living.

But the Social Security benefit rules are different for your wife as your widow and your survivor. If you predecease your wife, her spousal benefit from your work record, as described above, will discontinue and she will be switched to her survivor’s benefit. That survivor’s benefit will be 100% of the benefit amount you were receiving at your death, instead of the lower amount she was receiving as your spouse when you were living. So, your original assumption is correct – as your widow your wife will get 100% of the increased benefit you were receiving when you pass. The Social Security employee was incorrect by telling you that, if you pass, your wife will only get what you were due at your full retirement age; instead she’ll get the full amount of your current Social Security benefit (your full age 70 benefit, plus any COLA adjustments made after your claim).

This article is intended for information purposes only and does not represent legal or financial guidance. It presents the opinions and interpretations of the AMAC Foundation’s staff, trained and accredited by the National Social Security Association (NSSA). NSSA and the AMAC Foundation and its staff are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other governmental entity. To submit a question, visit our website ( or email us at [email protected].

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4 years ago

If my husband will be and is having some health issues. If he needs to collect disability benefits will that affect how much Social Security benifits when he reaches his retirement age?

3 years ago

I’m 62, my wife is 63. Do I need to register with SS, not start claiming, in order for my wife to receive survivor benefit (my higher monthly benefit) if I pass? In other words am I required to take any action with SS so my wife automatically gets my higher benefit when I pass or does SS do that without any “registration, without collecting” on my part?

Josh Ya
Josh Ya
1 year ago

I’m currently 59 and had planned on drawing SS at 62 due to a heart condition. If I die after 62 will my spouse be able to collect my full benefit, or is that only the case if I draw after 66?

Paul Olson
Paul Olson
1 year ago

I am and 8 months. My wife is full retirement age 66 and 4 months. I have recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. It seems pretty clear that if she hasn’t applied for her own benefits that she can apply for survivor benefits upon my death. Would this be my FRA or the lower benefit amount that I would qualify for at the time of my death? I can’t find a definite answer to this second question . If she applies for her own benefit now, will she still qualify for the same amount of survivor benefits after my death as she would if she waited to apply until
after my death?

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