Those who are entitled to government pensions from the Social Security Administration (SSA) often pass away before the SSA has a chance to pay out all of the money for which the workers are eligible. To ensure that the government gives back the money to which these workers are entitled, the SSA allows survivors, including widows, to collect the benefits, but payments can become complicated if the widow continues to work.
According to the SSA, you may get survivor's or widow's benefits even if you continue to work. However, the amount you can get in benefits depends on your age and the amount you earn.
Full Retirement Age
If you are at full retirement age when you receive a window's pension, it doesn't matter how much you work or earn. You may collect the full amount of the pension benefit. For this reason, it usually is in your best interest to wait until you are at retirement age to collect the widow's pension. As the SSA notes, if you take the benefits early, your benefits may be reduced, but the amount by which isn't truly lost. You can get larger benefits once you reach retirement that make up for what you didn't get earlier.
Younger Than Retirement Age
Getting a widow's pension is more complex if you want to get the benefits before you reach full retirement age. As of the time of publication, if you are younger than retirement age for the entire year, the SSA deducts $1 of your widow's benefits for each $2 you earn over $14,160. If you reached retirement during the year, then SSA deducted $1 of your widow's benefit for each $3 above $37,680 until the month where you were of full retirement age. However, you may collect a widow's benefit at any age if you are taking care of a child who is collecting Social Security and is younger than age 16 or disabled.
What Counts As Income
When the SSA looks at your income and benefits, it does not count everything as income. If you are employed, the administration uses only your wages as income. If you are self-employed, it uses only your net earnings. This means other monies, such as investment earnings interest and other government benefits, aren't counted toward the income limit.
You still may qualify for a widow's pension if you and your spouse divorced. To qualify, you must have been married for at least 10 years and be at least 60 years of age, 50 if disabled. Additionally, the law requires widows and survivor's benefits to be offset by your own retirement benefits dollar for dollar. To ensure that government workers who didn't pay Social Security tax were treated the same as those who did pay tax, Congress enacted the Government Pension Offset. This regulation stipulates that your widow's benefit can be reduced if you were a government employee who didn't pay Social Security tax.
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