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The hardest moment as a financial planner, is when a long-time client passes away. The emotional toll on the advisor-steve-sternsurviving spouse, the family and even the adviser can be devastating. One of the ways I am able to provide value to my clients is upon the passing of a spouse. During these times, the family becomes emotionally frozen and susceptible to making poor financial decisions. While at the same time, the surviving spouse may be left to adjust his/her lifestyle if a pension no longer exists and social security benefits are reduced.

In today’s day and age, it is more common than not for both spouses to work and earn a living, this wasn’t always the case. In many cases, one spouse has a significantly higher social security benefit than the other.

Social Security has a benefit called the “Widow or Widower’s Benefit.” Here’s a few bullet points to keep in mind when faced with Social Security decisions upon your spouse’s passing:

  1. The surviving spouse is not allowed to continue to collect both spouses’ benefits.
  2. However, the surviving spouse can elect to receive the higher of their own benefit or the deceased spouse’s benefit. The deceased spouses benefit includes delayed retirement credits up to age 70.
  3. Widows have a special rule that allows them to begin receiving benefits as early as age 60 as opposed to age 62. However, keep in mind that these are permanently reduced benefits. You can also delay your benefits and earn delayed retirement credits until age 70.
  4. While recent legislation abolished the “file and suspend” rules for couples, the new legislation does not change these rules. This means that a surviving spouse can decide when to receive their own social security benefit and separately, when to receive their widow’s benefit. One strategy is to elect one benefit while allowing the other benefit to grow, then at a later age, switch to the higher benefit.

Social Security decisions can be complex and there are other rules to consider. As a Certified Financial Planner, I work with my clients to see how these decisions can impact their long term financial projections and help them understand and take advantage of these complex rules.

To reach Steve:  sstern@psgplanning.com

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Steve joined Planning Solutions Group in 2015 and specializes in providing comprehensive financial plans to high-net worth individuals and families. During his career he has realized that his true passion is for building long-term relationships with clients and helping them through the various financial challenges they may face. Steve’s mission is to act as a true advocate for his client’s financial well-being.

Prior to joining Planning Solutions Group, Steve spent four years as a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ with Keeney Financial Group in Columbia, MD. He has also had the privilege of working for Convergent Wealth Advisors, Legg Mason and NVR, Inc. Steve currently holds the prestigious CFP® designation and has his FINRA series 7 and life and health insurance licenses.

In addition to providing clarity and confidence in all financial matters to his clients, Steve is passionate about giving back to the community. He currently lives in Baltimore City with his new wife and spends his free time rock climbing, travelling, cooking and volunteering with The Associated, a Jewish Philanthropic organization.  To email Steve:sstern@psgplanning.com