Allworth Advice: Yes, you can get Social Security benefits from your ex

·3 min read

Question: H.D. in Cleves: My ex-husband died. Was told I could get a Social Security widow’s benefit. Is that true?

A: Yes, ex-spouses can qualify for a survivors benefit assuming they meet a few criteria. First, your marriage to your late ex-husband must have lasted at least 10 years; you must be at least 60 years old (or 50 if you’re disabled); you are single, or if you’ve remarried, your new marriage occurred after you turned 60 (or, again, 50 if you’re disabled). (Note: If you’re caring for a child from the marriage who is younger than 16 or became disabled before age 22, there are some exceptions to these rules.)

Assuming you qualify, you’re able to claim 100% of the benefit your ex was receiving at the time of his death once you hit your Full Retirement Age (FRA). If he died before claiming, you’re entitled to receive what he was eligible to receive. And generally speaking, if you claim before your FRA, your benefit will be reduced. And, just as a reminder, if you’re currently claiming benefits off your own work record, you don’t get both benefits. Social Security pays the higher benefit. (We should also note that any claiming you do off of your ex’s work record will not impact anyone else who may also be doing so, such as another ex-spouse or a widow.)

Here's The Allworth Advice: As always with Social Security, there can be nuances that make every single situation unique and more complicated than what ‘general’ advice can cover. We recommend talking with someone at Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) if you have specific questions about the ex-spouse survivor benefit. And a fiduciary financial advisor can be a helpful ally if you need guidance regarding how this benefit works within the scope of your retirement strategy.

Amy Wagner and Steve Sprovach, Allworth Advice
Amy Wagner and Steve Sprovach, Allworth Advice

Q: Phillip in Mariemont: You guys are always saying how you prefer Roth savings vs. a regular 401(k) that's tax deferred. But I can't see how paying 22% tax now is better than paying 12% once I retire and have a lower income.

A: In theory, you make a very valid point. With a Roth IRA (or Roth 401(k)), you contribute with money you’ve already paid taxes on, essentially “locking-in” your tax rate at the current moment in time. With a tax-deferred account like a traditional IRA or 401(k), you’re getting an up-front tax break and waiting to pay your taxes later.

So, yes, it makes sense to analyze the tax situation you’re in now versus the one you think you’ll be in during retirement. If you believe your taxes will be higher in the future, contributing to a Roth now is a good option. If you think your taxes will be lower, a tax-deferred account would be better.

However, just to clarify… we’ve never said to save solely in a Roth-style account (unless it’s been advice for a young investor who’s currently in a low tax bracket). We talk about Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s because we think they’re great tools to have as part of your overall financial planning arsenal due to their tax-free growth. Having accounts with different tax structures gives you and your money more flexibility, both now and in retirement – especially when it comes to tax planning and income distribution strategies.

The Allworth Advice is that it doesn’t have to be a binary decision; you don’t have to put all your money in a Roth-style account or all your money in a tax-deferred account. We like the idea of having a mix of both, but as always, consult a trusted financial planner and/or tax professional to discuss your particular situation.

If you, a friend, or someone in your family has a money issue or problem, feel free to send those questions to yourmoney@enquirer.com.

Responses are for informational purposes only, and individuals should consider whether any general recommendation in these responses is suitable for their particular circumstances based on investment objectives, financial situation and needs. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional adviser of his/her choosing, including a tax adviser and/or attorney. Retirement planning services offered through Allworth Financial, an SEC-registered investment advisor adviser. Securities offered through AW Securities, a registered broker/dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Call 513-469-7500 or visit allworthfinancial.com.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Yes, you can get Social Security benefits from your ex