Updated Wednesday, April 23, 2014 as of 10:12 PM ET
Practice - Retirement Planning
Social Security Tips: Spouses and Survivors
by: Dave Lindorff
Monday, February 25, 2013
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Do your clients ask you about Social Security? Do you feel like you know enough about the program to answer them? Do they, and you, just assume it won’t be there for them when they retire?

That’s a misguided notion.

The program is indeed paying out more than it takes in. It has been since 2010. But with its current reserves (the so-called “lockbox”), it will be fully funded until 2033 even if no changes are made. And changes, both big and small, will likely happen along the way making the program a viable source of income for generations.

So even while the big picture has some question marks, suffice it to say that any client over the age of 40 will see Social Security as an important source of retirement income. So advisors can take steps now to help their current clients.

We asked regular magazine contributor Dave Lindorff to research and compile a set of tips for advisors. Last week, we presented the first eight. Today, we have the next three. And check back as we continue to roll them out.

Children and Surviving Parents get Benefits from a Deceased Spouse’s Social Security

If your spouse dies at the age of 62 or older, and was thus eligible to collect Social Security, any children under 18 (or under 20 if still in high school), are eligible for child benefits. The surviving parent of any children under age 16 can also receive survivor benefits. Children receive 75% of the deceased parent’s Social Security benefit. The surviving parent of children under 16 also receives 75% of the deceased spouse’s benefit. (There is a cap for a surviving family of between 150-180% of the deceased’s  benefit amount.)

A widow can start collecting Social Security spousal benefits on the deceased spouse’s account at age 60  

This amount will be reduced by a small amount for each month before the widowed spouse’s actual retirement age of 62, but after age 62, the widow may switch to his or her own account. The best time to switch over can be complicated and the Social Security Administration advises such people to consult with a Social Security representative before making such a decision.

If you started collecting Social Security benefits early, and now think that was a mistake, you can fix it

The government allows you to pay back the benefits you received, say be withdrawing funds from your IRA or 4019(k) savings, and then re-file when you are older, allowing you to receive much higher benefits later.

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