Widows: Optimizing Your Social Security Benefits

Social security is a significant part of most widow’s retirement income. Meet with a member of our financial planning team to make sure you are making the best decisions to prepare for retirement.

Our Social Security Solution

Studies show that Social Security Benefits provide more than 50% of retirement income for almost half of American seniors. It lifts a great many women out of financial difficulties, including millions of widows.

Social security is one of the few sources of income guaranteed to last for your lifetime with benefits that can rise to keep pace with inflation.  It is an important source of retirement income, often providing hundreds of thousands of dollars over your lifetime.

Mature Women working

Lack of Knowledge = Loss of Benefits

The rules for collecting survivor (widow) benefits are quite complex. You may have heard that you can start collecting survivor benefits as early as age 60. The amount to which you are entitled depends on several factors including your age and work history, your current marital status, your late spouse’s age, and whether your late spouse had already begun collecting his or her own benefits.  In fact, some women may qualify for widow’s benefits even if they were divorced from a (now deceased) ex-husband, assuming she did not remarry before the age of 60.

Lady on the beach

Accuracy of Information

The complexity of the important decision as to when and how to file for benefits is often complicated by bad advice from the Social Security Administration (SSA). A recent audit report released by the Office of the Inspector General revealed that the SSA failed to inform 82% of beneficiaries entitled both to survivor and their own benefits of the option to claim a larger benefit. In fact, the audit estimates that the SSA underpaid 9,224 widows and widowers who were age 70+ by approximately $131.8 million.

Mature Women with Grandchild

Adding Complexity 

To further complicate things, the SSA makes certain assumptions that do not necessarily line up with the widow’s goals for planning future cash flow in retirement.  For example, when the SSA determines your benefits, it assumes that your wages will not increase in the future and it ignores cost of living adjustments, both of which can lead to an underestimation of future benefits and a miscalculation of optimal benefits.

The lack of good information and the ability to compare alternate scenarios (based on starting benefits at different ages, living longer or shorter than life expectancy, or working longer) can mean a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars over one’s lifetime, so it’s important to know your options and their consequences.

Social Security Optimization Solution

The good news is that you do not have to become a Social Security expert to receive the benefits to which you are entitled.  Merit’s Social Security Optimization™ Tool allows you to calculate maximum benefits and compare options based on alternate data that is most relevant to you.  Our Ambassadors, trained in widowed financial planning issues, will meet with you one-on-one to review your two comprehensive reports.  You’ll receive a comparison of six options, an explanation of concepts and benefits available to widows and a Visual illustration that compares the best strategies.

With a bit of information from you and the Social Security Administration, our team will help you understand your options so you can make smart decisions based on your personal situation. With this new confidence, you can focus on the things that matter most (like how to spend your benefits)!

To learn more, read our Case Studies:

To see a sample Summary Visual that your Merit Ambassador will review with you in your one-on-one meeting, click here:

Ready to Get Started?

Social security is a large part of most widow’s retirement cash flow and this tool helps you to understand your alternatives and prepare for your future. The goal of the Social Security Optimization tool is to allow you to make the best decision based on your personal benefits, so you can approach your retirement better prepared and with more confidence! Click the button below to learn more about our social security options.