creators home lifestyle web
tom margenau


The So-Called 'New' Social Security Rules Are Actually the Old Rules There is just so darn much misinformation out there about new Social Security rules. These rules have to do with the eventual elimination of the maximizing strategies known as "file and restrict" and "file and suspend." Every single day, I get …Read more. How to Deal With the Social Security Earnings Penalties I've gotten more than a few emails recently from Social Security beneficiaries who are under age 66 and still working and who are trapped in the web of Social Security's convoluted earnings penalty rules and the way they are administered. Those …Read more. Long Gone Husband May Mean Extra Social Security to Some I gave a couple women very nice Christmas presents over the recent holiday season. And I'm not talking about the lingerie I got my wife or the coffee maker I got my daughter. I'm talking about the gift of extra Social Security benefits I got for two …Read more. The Lights Are Still Shining Brightly at SSA About a month ago, I wrote a column about possible declining service at the Social Security Administration. I pointed out that I get frequent emails from readers who complain about overflowing waiting rooms, generally unpleasant surroundings, and …Read more.
more articles

Explaining the Calculation Behind Widow's and Wives' Benefits


Q: I am retired and get about $900 per month. My ex-husband also is retired and he's getting $1,600 per month. I had always assumed that I will have to wait until he dies before I'd be able to get some of his Social Security. But after reading a recent column you wrote, it sounds like I could be getting some of his Social Security now. Is this true?

A: Based on the Social Security benefit amounts you gave me, it is NOT true in your case.

Many women think that their husband, or ex-husband, has to be deceased before they can collect part of his Social Security benefits. But a woman can get part of her husband's (or ex-husband's) Social Security while he's still alive IF her own benefit is significantly smaller than his. In your case, your benefit just isn't small enough. Or, we could say his just isn't big enough!

The Social Security Administration always pays a woman her own retirement benefit first. Then it looks to see if she might be due some supplemental benefits as a wife from her husband's record. As a general rule, a woman can be supplemented up to half of her husband's (or ex-husband's) Social Security benefit. But that is only if she did not take early retirement benefits on her own record. If she took her own Social Security before reaching her "full retirement age," then she could be due a supplement up to as little as about one-fourth of her husband's Social Security rate.

The percentages explained above apply to a woman whose husband (or ex) is still alive.

If he is deceased, the percentage of the supplement goes up. Once again, SSA will generally pay a woman her own retirement benefit first. Then they look to see if she can get a widow's supplement on her husband's record (or a divorced widow's supplement on her ex-husband's record). A woman who becomes a widow (and starts collecting widow's benefits) at 66 or older, will usually qualify for a supplement up to 100 percent of her husband's Social Security benefit.

If she starts getting widow's benefits before age 66, then the percentage of the widow's supplement goes down, to as low as 70 percent for a widow who is 60 years old. The same percentages apply to a divorced widow.

Let's use your case as an example. You said you are getting $900 per month and your ex-husband is getting $1,600 per month. I am going to assume that both of you waited until your full retirement age to start your Social Security benefits. If one or both of you took early retirement benefits, then the amount due would be different.

While your ex is alive, the maximum supplement you could receive would be up to $800 (50 percent of his benefit). Because your own retirement benefit of $900 exceeds your maximum wife's benefit rate, you aren't due any wife's supplement. On the other hand, had your husband's rate been $2,000 per month, for example, then your retirement benefit could be supplemented up to half of that, or $1,000. In other words, SSA would pay you your own $900 retirement benefit - and then give you a $100 per month wife's supplement to take you up to the $1,000 level.

When your ex-husband dies, you would be due a widow's supplement up to 100 percent of his rate. So, when that happens, SSA will continue to pay your $900 retirement benefit, and supplement that with $700 in widow's benefits on his record to take you up to his $1,600 rate.

Please bear in mind that this is a very broad-brushed explanation of benefit computations for wives and widows (and divorced wives and divorced widows). I really just hinted at all the variables that might be involved. So the bottom line message is that you should always check with your local Social Security office to go over all the particulars of your case and let them decide if and when you are due benefits from your husband's or ex-husband's Social Security record.

To find out more about Tom Margenau and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



57 Comments | Post Comment
I am a divorced woman after 21 years of marriage. My ex-husband died and I applied for his SS. He did not take any SS while he was alive as he was a millionaire. My SS office tells me that there is a limit as to what my combined monthly payment will be. Somewhere around $3,000 for both my work payment and his work payment. My problem with all this is that he earned and payed on probably about 200 credits. In August I received a letter telling me they had recalculated my combined payment increasing his portion by $38 dollard and decreasing my portion by $97.00. When I questioned the math they told me there was a cap on how much I could receive. In 2009 my SS payment (based on my work) was $1370 per month; now my portion of the SS payment is $1273. They told me that they do not pay "cents", rounding up or down depending on the amount of "cents." In my case they didn't round up. Where does all this little nickel and dimes go? $97 from my work record a month and all the little $1. If I am supposed to be paid my full SS payment first (in this case I'm not), why am I getting a runaround? I can't get an answer and the office here does not allow personal meeting; all dialogue is done over the phone. The letter they send is a vailed threat--if I question how things are computed, I could be denied any payment.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Nelson
Tue Oct 12, 2010 7:30 AM
I am receiving widow's benefits from my ex husband. Is that the same as his social security. I was wondering because when I applied they gave me the widow's benefits. I am still working and after I receive 14,000 this beneift will stop till the next year. If I receive his social security instead of widow's beneftits is there a cut off for this as well. Thank you.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Karla Douglas
Wed Oct 13, 2010 11:14 AM
I will be 60 in Feb. and will collect widows SS benefits. My husband died in 2004 and was collecting $1600. monthly in ss disability. He started collecting the disability around the age of 60. He died at 63. How much can I expect to collect monthly? I do not believe the $1600. he collected was the full benefit he would have collected at 65.
Comment: #3
Posted by: barbara fraser
Sat Nov 13, 2010 8:53 AM
I am a federal employee I am under CSRS. I can retire at 55 with 30 yrs of service. I do not pay into ss. I have an ex-deceased husband that i was married to for 11 yrs. I know about the government offset. do you think i will receive anything on his ss? My kids collected from him when he died, and his new wife until she got a job, and they were only married about 3 years, and a child she had with him, is still collecting. I do have some ss points from regualr employment.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Dee
Thu Jan 13, 2011 12:13 PM
my sisters husband died three weeks ago she draws around 900 a mo. her husband was still working he had a massive heart attack they are telling her she is going to collect only hers because hers would a little larger i thought she would get some at least after he paid in for 30 years shouldnt she at least get some of his
Comment: #5
Posted by: judy komlosi
Wed Mar 2, 2011 2:36 PM
What if the deceased spouse drew less Social Security than the surviving widow? Can she still draw any of his benefits if she was married to him ten years?
Comment: #6
Posted by: Roxanne Jordan
Thu Jun 16, 2011 9:58 AM
i am getting widows pension.i started getting widowns pension at age 60. i was wondering if i will still get some of my husbands benefits when i fully retire? Or will i get any more money from widows benefits as i get older?
thank you
Comment: #7
Posted by: Lora Lebedeff
Tue Jul 5, 2011 11:24 PM
I have been a widow since 2002,i have never applied for widow benefits,but my children do receive survivor ben. I was wondering if its to late to apply and is there a year amount of time to have been married??
Comment: #8
Posted by: Stefanie andrews
Wed Nov 2, 2011 10:22 PM
My husband passed away in 2006. i have been told that I can draw SS benefits. he would have been 62 in 2012. I will be 56 in 2012. is that a true that I can draw his ss?
Comment: #9
Posted by: pattie nalls
Wed Nov 9, 2011 8:57 AM
when i get a response posted?
Comment: #10
Posted by: pattie nalls
Wed Nov 9, 2011 9:05 AM
How many divorced, new widows can draw ex husband s ss? One is widow the other current wife
Comment: #11
Posted by: Msturino
Sat Feb 11, 2012 7:27 AM
My husband passed in 2002 at the age of 57..he would have been 67 last year..I am only 57 ..58 in july..can I can any of his ss disability that he use to get before he passed or do I have to wait to be 60....
Comment: #12
Posted by: Patricia Bickerstaff
Fri Feb 17, 2012 3:50 PM
My Husband is a retiree from the federal goverment we have been married for 50 years, and we are going to get a divorce I want to know the benefits I am entitled to received from the retirement amount he receive, the health insurence we both get.
Comment: #13
Posted by: Mary Bustamante
Mon Feb 20, 2012 9:19 AM
I am divorced from my husband of 25 years, he is alive and still working, however I live off of my early SSA for about 10 years or so and made an appt. to SSA to put in for my ex's SSA, they told me he has to be retired first before I qualify, I think think is wrong as I have waited many years, until I turned 61 years old and I am living on $700.00 a month and can hardly survive. I have a permanant disability, COPD and think why do I have to live like this, I can hardly make ends meet and am living with an old friend until I can get my old place, but it is very hard. Help!
Comment: #14
Posted by: Pauline G.
Fri Mar 9, 2012 12:23 PM
I received SS at 62-when my ex turned 62 I applied for his...they cut his in half and only gave me the difference between his and this right
Comment: #15
Posted by: sue
Fri Apr 13, 2012 9:55 AM
My husband is 67 and I'm 68. He gets 1538.00 a month and i get 771.00 now. If he passes will I still get the 771.00 or how much would i get?
Comment: #16
Posted by: charlene tschopp
Wed May 30, 2012 5:00 AM
I am 63 years old and have paid into 30 some odd years with full ss credits with an estimated income for the last 5 years of 31500. I am not married and my x husband just recently passed away at the age of 62.

Recently the SS office gave me an estimate for my ss benefits and his (who had not died at that time).

My question being, will there be an additional amount added to this since there was a widows benefit column not estimated. Does his death increase my total ss benefit should I retire now at this date.
Comment: #17
Posted by: Jennifer Moore
Tue Jun 12, 2012 6:35 AM
why is it that a widow i know who is the same age as me is getting widow's benifits and i am not. we both have no children at home or in school and both r not disabled.
Comment: #18
Posted by: nora bumgardner
Tue Jun 12, 2012 8:25 AM
My husband died August 2010. My daughter who was 10 at time of his death and his disable adult son a myself was receiving his dealth benefits, now almost two years later someone else has file a claim under his ss# how do we no how many poeple is intitle to his social security and that they are ligit. No one new of any other children.
Comment: #19
Posted by: Carolyn Wilson
Fri Jun 15, 2012 4:11 AM
I was married for 22 years After my deivorce my ex husband passed away.. I remarried in 1993 and worked til I retired at age 67. I get 700 dollars a month. Can I collect a benefit off my first husband? My current husband does not collect SS as he is too young and also is unemployed so my 700 is our only income.
Comment: #20
Posted by: Nita Kinney
Tue Aug 14, 2012 4:09 PM
when can i collect widows benifts
Comment: #21
Posted by: margrit bautz
Thu Oct 18, 2012 2:53 PM
I am 52 and trying to get dissability.My husband is 55 and on dissability and his health is getting worst,if he passes will I be able to get any kind of benefits?I am afraid I will loose everything!Please help!
Comment: #22
Posted by: KimLewis
Sat Dec 8, 2012 11:56 AM
after being married for 18 years my husband and i divorced...6 years later i ex pased away this year at 64 can i collect from his ss
Comment: #23
Posted by: susan larlee
Wed Dec 26, 2012 3:51 PM
Comment: #24
Thu Dec 27, 2012 10:09 AM
My husband and I both receive ssi he took an early retirement from the state. I still work and did not take my ssi until my full retirement age of 66. Also my ssi is more than his by about $250. When he dies am I entitled to the widows benefit?
Comment: #25
Posted by: connie williams
Wed Jan 2, 2013 12:24 PM
I am 61 years old and I started collecting my ex-husband S/S after he died. I have not been able to work because of an illness that I have and I applied for SSD which I recently had a hearing and waiting to see if I have been approved. My question is if I get approved will I still receive my ex-husbands S/S ( widows income) or will I lose that income and only receive the SSD? Thank you in advance for your time.

Posated by:Francine DiGiorgio
Comment: #26
Posted by: Francine DiGiorgio
Mon Jan 7, 2013 4:09 PM
My husband passed away 22 yrs. ago . He would now be retirement age . I am 60 so I can't retire yet . Can I collect off from his now ?
Comment: #27
Posted by: Betty Warhurst
Sun May 5, 2013 3:22 AM
My husband passed away 22 yrs. ago . He would now be retirement age . I am 60 so I can't retire yet . Can I collect off from his now ?
Comment: #28
Posted by: Betty Warhurst
Sun May 5, 2013 3:22 AM
My husband passed away 22 yrs. ago . He would now be retirement age . I am 60 so I can't retire yet . Can I collect off from his now ?
Comment: #29
Posted by: Betty Warhurst
Sun May 5, 2013 3:22 AM
My husband passed away 22 yrs. ago . He would now be retirement age . I am 60 so I can't retire yet . Can I collect off from his now ?
Comment: #30
Posted by: Betty Warhurst
Sun May 5, 2013 3:22 AM
Hi my name is Rita and my husband past in August 2008.I am collecting widows disability.I had been disabled but never filed till my husband past away.he worked all his life so he put in more than me.he died at 52 & I was wondering if I would ever be able to collect any money he would have gotten if he would of retired..
Comment: #31
Posted by: Rita Clark
Tue Jun 11, 2013 7:13 AM
My husband is filing for early retirement. Would I be allowed a supplement? I am 59 and will continue to work with some medical restrictions. Can I receive a supplement?
Comment: #32
Posted by: Shelia Clark
Sun Jun 30, 2013 10:40 PM
My ex husband just passed away a week ago. I am 62 years old. Can i collect widows benefits if he had remarried to a young lady 40 yrs. old.
Comment: #33
Posted by: marcy lopez
Wed Aug 14, 2013 10:37 PM
I am a widow and receive social security benefits off of(for lack of better term) my deceased husband. My twins recently turned 18, which cut them off of their ss checks and increased my and my other 2 childrens checks.. My question is, when my other 2 children reach the age of 18 how. will this affect my ss check? Will my ss check be "cut off" or will it be adjusted like it was when my twins turned 18? I just want to be prepared in order to be able to continue to take care of my children in the future. Thanks very much.
Comment: #34
Posted by: angelina2713
Sun Sep 1, 2013 5:15 PM
I have been divorced from my x husband for over 25 years. I did remarry in 2004. He was on disability at age 64 which is when he passed..Just this month actually. He did remarry so can I get 1005 of his social security and what would the present widow get? I've already applied for his SS but I get conflicting answers...
Comment: #35
Posted by: sherry thacker
Tue Oct 29, 2013 4:34 AM
Hi my name is Debbie my husband died and I get a Penision of 861 monthly I am also seeing a doctor due to back sugery ,a double hip replacement and a sist or tumor on my wrist .i live on Maui as a fleeing felon long story .but can I and am I still I titled to benifit assistance now I'm 53 or at legal retirement age .or will they deny me my self and my deceased never used any of the $ I worked little as I was a wife and mom but he worked union 26+years payng into SS I really need the assistance but should I wait it out till I am legally retirement age to be approved or being a felon will always cause a deniel .
Comment: #36
Posted by: Dabra vinatieri
Mon May 19, 2014 1:08 PM
Hi my name is Debbie my husband died and I get a Penision of 861 monthly I am also seeing a doctor due to back sugery ,a double hip replacement and a sist or tumor on my wrist .i live on Maui as a fleeing felon long story .but can I and am I still I titled to benifit assistance now I'm 53 or at legal retirement age .or will they deny me my self and my deceased never used any of the $ I worked little as I was a wife and mom but he worked union 26+years payng into SS I really need the assistance but should I wait it out till I am legally retirement age to be approved or being a felon will always cause a deniel .
Comment: #37
Posted by: Dabra vinatieri
Mon May 19, 2014 1:08 PM
Hi, I was married to my husband for 21 years and divorced. He passed away in 2004, and in 2007 I became disabled. I receive both my SS and I also get widows Benefits. I remarried in 2010, and still receive my SSDI and widows benefits. I just turned 60 and would like to know when I no longer will receive Widows Benefits.
Comment: #38
Posted by: Cheryl Hutchinson
Thu May 22, 2014 8:56 AM
My husband passed away at age 63 in 2013. He had taken early retirement so I am receiving a reduced widow's amount along with my early retirement benefits received since 2010. I have continued to work and I am now 66 as of January, 2014. I have seen no re-calculation of benefits this year based on my income in 2013. If I continue to work will My benefits ever be re-calculated based on income or will I only ever receive the current amount which includes the widow's benefits?
Comment: #39
Wed May 28, 2014 9:41 AM
My husband and I been together 19 yrs got married for 4 1/2 mos before he pasted away 4 mos ago disable veteran was married to 1st wife ten yrs but divorce now to her but remind u I have always been their doing all the wife's duties not her for as long as they been apart she just held onto the marriage -- this I feel should be changed in the rules and regulations administration board because this make the the second wife opselet or feels like a nobody when she was the one that was there in this man life what is the second wife benefits and this law needs to be changed not right First wife just waiting to collect. So how do the current wife and divorce wife be issued widow pension and va benefits? Can someone give me answer and honest fedback? Matt
Comment: #40
Posted by: matt richie
Thu May 29, 2014 12:18 AM
Comment: #41
Posted by: matt richie
Thu May 29, 2014 12:31 AM
My husband and I were married one year to the date that he passed, he was 27 years old, I am 40. I can not find anything that is telling me anything bout collecting spousal benefits. Because he was not retired. he had a daughter and my step daughter. I don't know what do to find the answers that I need. He passed Just this past week, Please help and lead me in the right direction. I need this for bills and our daughters. This has been the hardest thing that I have had to deal with and I need help in this situation. thank you..
Comment: #42
Posted by: Lisa Safrit
Wed Jun 11, 2014 7:22 PM
Hi every body i will like to inform you abut this good man that help me save my marriage not only that he do many thing for peoples. And his a good man many people say good thing about he. This is his email; If you need any thing or help.
Comment: #43
Posted by: Henrry
Wed Jun 18, 2014 3:20 PM
I was drawing on my es-husband' s SS, which I took, because I had raised our children/stay at home wife, and did not have enough work-quarters to collect my own. I remarried, after getting totally wrong information, from '2" different agents at SS office... I was over 65, when I remarried, and was told that I COULD APPLY under my new husband's number, after we were married one year! ` They did not tell me I would lose anything, but the opposite!!! ~ I did not apply under my new husband till 2 1/2 years after the marriage, hoping I would get more! Now I will, IF I EVER GET IT! They say they will go back and give me the new rate for 6 months, HOWEVER THAT I OWE THEM 2 YEARS IN BACK PAYMENTS: total bill they say I owe is $26,000. Can you imagine the shock, and they ask me to pay the $19,000.00 difference within 30 days! ...or they will NOW HOLD BACK MY SS checks for 2 YEARS!!! ~ They would have only kept one year, if I had filed in time, they say, yet ON ONE TOLD ME THAT! I suffer a lot of pain, with MS, and NOW THE GOVERNMENT WANTS TO TAKE BACK 2 YEARS, instead of the one they say I would have owed! ~ Is there NO JUSTICE? ~ DOES ANYONE KNOW A GOOD ATTORNEY THAT WILL HANDLE THIS, IN THE HOUSTON/KATY AREA? ~ t.Y. ~ n.d.
Comment: #44
Posted by: N.D.S.
Tue Jun 24, 2014 1:55 PM
Me and my daughter receive survivors benefits, however I was just informed I would lose mine when she turns 16, will my daughters benefits increase when I lose my benefits?
Comment: #45
Posted by: Ida kikendall
Mon Jul 7, 2014 9:15 PM
I am 57. Had a brain tumor removed in 05. My ex divorced me in 2012 after 30 yrs of marriage. I can never work again. He pays me spousal support. I have been told he has to pay it according to the yrs we were married. Also can I draw on his social security now???
Comment: #46
Posted by: Angela gilbert
Sun Jul 20, 2014 2:27 PM
I am 64 and have been collecting ss disability for several Years. My husband died 16 years ago. Am I allowed all or a portion of his ss?
Comment: #47
Posted by: Terry Daperstein
Mon Aug 4, 2014 1:39 PM
i am a registered alien, married for over 30 to US citizen. i have never worked or paid into SS. i draw benefits now based on husband's SS. Can i continue to draw after he passes?
Comment: #48
Posted by: MHP
Sat Aug 9, 2014 9:20 AM
Do you need a spell to get your ex-lover back, have you been scammed and you want your money to be refunded back to you, are you in a relationship and you need a a love charm to hold your partner not to ever cheat on you? Do you need a business charm for your business to be flourishing or do you need a charm for general purposes, Contact us now for your problems are over.
Dr. Igodo
Comment: #49
Posted by: Dr. Igodo
Sun Oct 19, 2014 8:05 PM
I have been married to my husband for 45 years and have been collecting social security since age 65, but when I retired at 65 1/2 my payments were reduced because of a teacher's pension. Can I have 50% of what my husband is getting added to what he gets? He was self employed and retired at 65. He is 77 and I am 73.
Comment: #50
Posted by: Sandralee Nordquist
Wed Nov 19, 2014 9:04 PM
Re: Sandralee Nordquist
Comment: #51
Posted by: Sandralee Nordquist
Wed Nov 19, 2014 9:07 PM
I am drawing SS and my wife is in teh Philippines nd never been to US but has ITIN upon my death will she be able to draw beenfitas 2 children and one niece supporting her sinc she owas 1.
Comment: #52
Posted by: Thomas Gilbert
Fri Dec 12, 2014 1:19 AM
I have been getting disabled widows benifits since 2008 . My husband passed in 06. We were getting 2740. I began with half of that. I am now 64. I want to know if that will go up at 65
and if I can ask for more. If I can would they stop my checks while they evaluate. I have meds that are too expensive. And ins. Has them on a high tier. I now get1518 and make too much they say to qualify for programs.
Comment: #53
Posted by: arline Robertson
Sat Dec 27, 2014 11:32 AM
My husband died in 2011 and got his disability for 3 months. I am disable and I was told that I would draw 70% on my Widows Pension when I turned
50. I get only $516.00, a month. I am confused. Please someone helpbme.
Comment: #54
Posted by: Carla J Goolsby
Thu Apr 16, 2015 10:54 PM
Re: Betty Warhurst
Comment: #55
Posted by: susan larose
Tue May 5, 2015 4:57 PM
To you be all the praise DR EZIZA for the wonderful peace you have brought to my home. Words are not qualify enough to describe the kind of work you did for me in your temple, if not for your spell how would Caesar have come back home to handle his responsibilities as the man of the house. If you are wise and you need quick answer to your request email this powerful DR EZIZA on or call his direct mobile number +2348058176289.
Comment: #56
Posted by: ann3222
Fri Aug 28, 2015 9:32 AM
hi! my fiances mothers husband of 30 years passed away @ 1992. she never filed for widows benefits. she is 66 years of age. Is she able to file and receive benefits after 17 years? if so do the payments go back to the date of death? thanks
Comment: #57
Posted by: staci
Fri Sep 11, 2015 8:32 PM
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right: comments policy
Tom Margenau
Feb. `16
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 1 2 3 4 5
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month