By Russell Gloor
For Capital Region Independent Media
If I file at age 63, what percentage does my wife receive if I die? Does this percentage change if I wait to file closer to my full retirement age? And what does my wife receive if I die before I file for my benefits?
Signed: Planning Ahead
When you file for your own Social Security benefit will affect the survivor benefit your wife is entitled to as your widow.
If you claim at age 63, her benefit as your widow will be based on your age 63 amount. If you wait longer to claim your own Social Security, your own benefit will be higher and so will your wife’s entitlement as your survivor. In other words, your wife’s benefit as your widow will be based on the amount you are receiving when you die, and the longer you wait to claim your own Social Security, the higher your wife’s survivor entitlement will be.
Exactly how much your wife will get monthly as your widow depends also on her own age when she claims her survivor benefit. If you were to die first, your wife can claim a reduced survivor benefit as early as age 60, but doing so will result in a benefit that is 28.5% lower than it would be if she waits until her own full retirement age (67) to claim.
Survivor benefits do not reach maximum until the survivor reaches full retirement age (FRA) and, if claimed before that, the benefit will be reduced by 4.75% for each full year early, to a maximum reduction of 28.5%. So, although your wife’s base survivor benefit will be the actual (100%) amount you were receiving when you die, her monthly survivor payment will be reduced if she claims the survivor benefit before her FRA. It is an actuarial reduction of 0.396% less survivor benefit for each month prior to FRA the survivor benefit is claimed.
If you wait to file for your own benefit but die before you actually start collecting your benefits, your wife’s entitlement as your widow will be based upon the amount you were entitled to when you died. She will not lose her survivor benefit — it will be based upon the amount you were entitled to when you died, even though you had not yet claimed.
Your wife can also delay claiming her survivor benefit until she reaches her FRA to maximize her benefit as your widow. But there is more to consider.
If your wife is working full-time, it is often not prudent (and may not be possible) to collect Social Security benefits before reaching full retirement age. That’s because of Social Security’s earnings test, which limits how much can be earned while collecting SS benefits before FRA.
The earnings limit for 2022 is $19,560 (changes yearly) and if that is exceeded, SS will take away benefits equal to $1 for every $2 over the limit. If the limit is significantly exceeded, your wife could be temporarily ineligible to get benefits, until her earnings are less, or until she reaches her full retirement age (the earnings limit no longer applies when FRA is reached).
Finally, it’s important to note that all Social Security rules are gender-neutral, meaning that the rules apply equally to both spouses.
But in any case, a surviving spouse can only get one benefit – either their own or their survivor benefit, whichever is highest.
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 (amacfoundation.org/programs/social-security-advisory) or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spring turkey season opens Sunday, May 1, in all of upstate New York north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary. Licensed hunters are also required to have a turkey permit, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
DEC officials said in a statement that turkey hunting is a safe activity and will continue getting safer each year as long as you remember to point your gun in a safe direction; treat every gun as if it were loaded; be sure of your target and beyond; and keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
Remember, stalking stinks! Sit with your back against a tree or other object wider than your shoulders and call birds to you. DEC also encourages all hunters to wear blaze orange or blaze pink when moving between hunting spots to make themselves more visible to other hunters. A blaze orange or blaze pink vest or other material can be hung in a nearby tree when you are set up and calling birds so other hunters are alerted to your presence.
Spring turkey harvest in New York averages about 19,000 birds and varies based on the number of participants and turkey productivity in the previous few springs.
This spring, DEC biologists expect hunters to take more turkeys than last year. Hunters prefer to take toms (2 or more years old) over younger male “jakes,” so typically wildlife managers see a two-year lag between summer productivity and spring take.
Overall, turkey populations are lower now than a few years ago due to below-average reproductive success in two of the last three years; however, the good news is that improved turkey productivity in 2020 will mean a greater proportion of toms available to hunters this spring compared to last year.
The DEC offered these tips for a safe turkey hunting season:
- Hunting is permitted in most areas of the state, except for New York City and Long Island;
- Hunters must have a turkey hunting permit in addition to their hunting license;
- Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to noon each day;
- Hunters may take two bearded turkeys during the spring season, but only one bird per day;
- The bag limit for the youth hunt is one bearded bird. This bird becomes part of the youth’s regular season bag limit of two bearded birds. A second bird may be taken in upstate New York (north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary) beginning May 1;
- Hunters may not use rifles or handguns firing a bullet. Hunters may hunt with a shotgun or handgun loaded with shot sizes no larger than No. 2 or smaller than No. 8, or with a bow or crossbow (except crossbows may not be used in Westchester County);
- Successful hunters must fill out the tag that comes with their turkey permit and immediately attach it to any turkey harvested;
- Successful hunters must report their harvest within seven days of taking a bird. Call 1-866-426-3778 (1-866 GAMERPT) or report harvest online at DEC’s Game Harvest Reporting website.
For more information about turkey hunting in New York, see the 2021-22 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide or visit the Turkey Hunting pages of DEC’s website.