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Widows Lifeline

August 14, 2014

Social Security can be a lifeline for widows. If they become widowed at a young age, while they still have young children at home, they can receive mothers' benefits until the youngest child turns 16. Once they turn 60, they become eligible for survivor benefits lasting the rest of their lives.  Although Social Security might come as a welcome surprise to newly widowed people who weren't counting on it, it is not enough to live on. For couples who planned well, the widow has life insurance proceeds to supplement Social Security to enable the young mother to stay home with the children if she prefers not to work outside the home, to fill in the gap when she receives no Social Security at all, and to supplement the Social Security survivor benefit later in life.  For those who didn't plan…well, the planning must start after the death of the breadwinner.  However, many mothers of young children are not able to receive Social Security benefits because they must work to support the family. The earnings test applies to all Social Security benefits received before full retirement age. So if a widow earns more than $15,480 in 2014, $1 in benefits will be withheld for every $2 earned over $15,480. The earnings of the mother would not affect the children's benefits, however. Each child may receive 75% of the deceased worker's primary insurance amount to age 18 (19 if still in high school), subject to the family maximum.