annuities

How to Offset Lower Social Security Benefits When a Spouse Dies

When one spouse dies, the other may see a big chunk of their Social Security income disappear. Joint annuities could help fill that gap.

What happens to a retired couple’s Social Security benefits when a spouse dies?  Often there is a substantial loss of income — a problem that has gotten surprisingly little attention.

The surviving spouse will get either the survivor benefit or his or her own retirement benefit, but not both. Social Security will pay the higher of the two amounts. For example, Mr. Jones collects $2,500 a month and Mrs. Jones gets $2,000. After one dies, either survivor will receive $2,500 a month — a 44.4% drop in total benefits.

If one spouse’s benefits are small (or none), the impact on income will be small. But, when both spouses are collecting substantial benefits, as is often the case, there will be a substantial reduction that could last for many years.

While the death of a spouse reduces some ongoing costs, the decrease may not be large. If the survivor stays in the same home, property taxes or rent, utilities, insurance and other monthly costs remain about the same.

Joint annuity payments continue after spouse’s death

One way to offset a decline in future Social Security benefits is with a lifetime income annuity. It provides a stream of guaranteed income that continues until death.  An income annuity can cover one person or both spouses. The big advantage of a joint income annuity is that it pays the same income stream after one spouse has died. It can thus help fill the gap from lower Social Security benefits.

You can choose either an immediate or a deferred income annuity. With a deferred income annuity, you choose the future date that monthly payments begin. For example, Mr. and Mrs. Jones deposit $100,000 in a joint lifetime deferred income annuity when he’s 67 and she’s 65. They decide to defer income for 13 years until Mr. Jones is 80. They’ll receive $943.73 a month (as of May 2021) for as long as either one lives.

Of that amount, only $326.53 will be taxable, as the remainder is considered nontaxable return of principal. If either spouse lives so long that the entire principal has been repaid, the income will continue and then become fully taxable. This is where the insurance aspect truly kicks in and why an annuity serves as longevity insurance.

Alternately, the Joneses may decide to purchase an immediate income annuity. If they buy a joint lifetime immediate annuity with a $100,000 deposit, they’ll start receiving $424.96 a month ($80.74 taxable) right away, according to one insurer’s rates as of May 2021.

Another way annuities can figure into your Social Security strategy

An immediate annuity could give them sufficient income so that they’ll be able to delay receiving Social Security benefits, perhaps until each is 70 when they’ll get substantially higher payments than if they started earlier. This can be a smart move if you’re in good health and are likely to live longer than average.

The couple could also hedge their bets by putting part of their money in an immediate annuity and part in a deferred income annuity. The latter will provide a raise in future income to keep up with inflation and offset lower Social Security benefits if one of them has passed in the interim.

Beyond the basic scenarios, calculating Social Security survivor benefits can be complex. For the basics, check out “Maximize Social Security Benefits for Surviving Spouses.

A free quote comparison service with interest rates from dozens of insurers is available at www.annuityadvantage.com  or by calling (800) 239-0356.

About the Author

Ken Nuss

CEO / Founder, AnnuityAdvantage

Retirement-income expert Ken Nuss is the founder and CEO of AnnuityAdvantage, a leading online provider of fixed-rate, fixed-indexed and immediate-income annuities. Interest rates from dozens of insurers are constantly updated on its website. He launched the AnnuityAdvantage website in 1999 to help people looking for their best options in principal-protected annuities. More information is available from the Medford, Oregon, based company at https://www.annuityadvantage.com or (800) 239-0356.

Most Popular

9 Great Growth ETFs for 2022 and Beyond
ETFs

9 Great Growth ETFs for 2022 and Beyond

These growth ETFs offer exposure to higher-risk, higher-reward stocks while lessening the risk of a single stock torpedoing your returns.
January 18, 2022
The 10 Best Closed-End Funds (CEFs) for 2022
CEFs

The 10 Best Closed-End Funds (CEFs) for 2022

These high-yielding CEFs won't just significantly boost your portfolio income. They'll also allow you to buy their underlying stocks and bonds at a di…
January 12, 2022
Sweet Silicon: 5 Superb Semiconductor Stocks for 2022
stocks

Sweet Silicon: 5 Superb Semiconductor Stocks for 2022

If 2021 was a good year for the chip industry, 2022 could be downright great. Here are five semiconductor stocks if you're seeking out growth.
January 11, 2022

Recommended

Who Should Consider an Annuity (and Who Shouldn’t)
annuities

Who Should Consider an Annuity (and Who Shouldn’t)

While annuities can be complicated, the decision about whether one is right for you doesn’t have to be. Some folks are clearly better candidates for a…
January 28, 2022
Yes, Our Parents Are Aging, But We Can Help
personal finance

Yes, Our Parents Are Aging, But We Can Help

While we can’t stop time, we can help our parents prepare for their next phase with some honest talks. You’ll be glad you did, and you may even have s…
January 27, 2022
7 Financial Planning Strategies for Your Own ‘Great Resignation’
careers

7 Financial Planning Strategies for Your Own ‘Great Resignation’

Anyone itching for a career change is in good company right now, but they need to think a few things through before taking the leap.
January 26, 2022
Could the Stock Market Crash for Real? Here’s How to Prepare
investing

Could the Stock Market Crash for Real? Here’s How to Prepare

After a long march to record heights, the stock market tripped into correction territory in January. How should you react? Thoughtfully.
January 25, 2022