Widow benefits can be very complicated. The need for immediate income and long-term stability create a unique challenge.

Here we look at a widow whose husband died two years ago. She needs sufficient income but wants to optimize Social Security. In order to get the most benefit from both Social Security benefits there has to be an analysis of both benefits independently.

What you need to consider is if the widow be working until full Retirement Age. If not, the choice is to either take the deceased spouse benefit as early as 60. This is done if that benefit is less than surviving benefit. By doing this, the primary benefit can grow to its maximum benefit at age 70.

If the surviving benefit is greater, a better choice would be to start the primary benefit at age 62 and switch to the deceased benefit at Full Retirement Age. There is no advantage to waiting beyond this point as the Survivor benefit does not receive delayed retirement credits and stops increasing at Full Retirement Age. In this case the difference for this example is $118,748 more over her lifetime.

You can see how this Widow benefits scenario unfolds with this downloadable PDF.