Survivor Benefits – Ouch

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One of the areas we work the hardest for our clients is in the area of Survivor Benefits.  People do not realize that with the proper advice and calculation, that the Survivor Benefit can be improved in most cases by quite a bit.  Remember, in a married couple, when one of you dies, only one check remains – the higher of the two and this will be your benefit for the rest of your life.

Retirement comes with PLANNING – you should not wait until the year before you leave your career to start this process.  Not only do you have to review Medicare options, 401K’s and other assets, but your Social Security benefit.  We preferably like to see our clients about two years before retirement to start the process.  You see, Social Security is really the cornerstone of most people’s retirement plan.  And to take at face value, what you see on your Social Security statement, can be a great loss of revenue to you and your family.

The Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) just recently reported that more than 100,000 widows and widowers were underpaid on their benefits.  The objective of this report “was to determine whether the Social Security Administration had adequte controls to establish a correct initial month of entitlement for widower’s benefits”.  As it turns out, it does not.

This is so discerning, because had these individuals had their benefits analyzed prior to filing, this would never have been the case.

When someone dies, people are told by a friend or loved one that one of the first things they need to do is file for that Survivor Benefit.  This may or may not be the appropriate plan of action or in their best interest financially.  Here is a partial listing of some of the issues that can arise with Survivor Benefits:

  1. If working and under Full Retirement Age, you are immediately hit with the Earnings Limitations rule, which limits your income to $16,920 per year (2017).  For ever $2 you earn over this limit, $1 will be withheld from your check.  In otherwords, you may not see one plug nickel of your benefit.  And, we have seen this happen one too many times.
  2. The law changes of November 2, 2015 did not affect Survivor Benefits.  Therefore, you have options, depending on when you file, to improve your lifetime income stream. If you file for the wrong benefit first, you are shortchanging these options.  
  3. If you draw this benefit at age 60 when first available, or 50 if disabled, it will be immediately reduced by 28.5%.  This is a huge reduction when you factor it through life expectancy.
  4. Usually there are life insurance proceeds that can be used prior to tapping into Social Security benefits.

We see many unintentionalmistakes in this area that are costly to the beneficiary – if you know of someone that is recently widowed, please have them call before they file.  They need to know all options along with the proper month of entitlement before fiing.

Remember,  Social Security is a lifetime annuity,  is inflation protected, and has the right of survivorship.  Call us at Pillars, LLC,  601-954-0699 to order your customized report.   Or your can email us at or for more information.  Our website is