More flexibility for widows and widowers
Social Security does a good job of explaining widow and widower benefits, but Dan Keady, senior director of financial planning for TIAA-CREF Financial Services, says it doesn't clearly spell out a key difference between widow/widower benefits and spousal benefits. A widow/widower can begin benefits based on his or her own earnings record and later switch to survivors benefits, or begin with survivors benefits and later switch to benefits based on his or her own record -- even if the surviving spouse is filing before full retirement age. You can't do that with spousal benefits.
In other words, a widow can begin drawing a survivor's benefit on her late husband's Social Security when she is as young as 60, but only at a reduced rate. Then she can choose to leave her own Social Security alone, allowing it to grow in value until her full retirement age -- or even age 70. This works for widowers, too.