Social Security Retirement Benefits: Part 4 of Financial Considerations When You Lose Your Spouse

Updated: Feb 3, 2020


In my beloved Agatha Christie mystery books, a few of the widowed characters have a pension from their deceased husbands that allows them to eat at darling tea shops, buy good linens, and participate in solving murders. Some of the more-desperate, pension-less, older widowed lady characters, however, actually turn to committing murder. In 2020 America, few of our spouses and few of us have pensions from years of work. The “pension” on which most of us rely is Social Security.

Social Security “claiming” (or the history of it since recent laws changed the rules) is a series all its own, but in this article, we’ll touch briefly on a few points to consider about Social Security when you’ve lost your spouse. In our series on how to manage finances after the death of a spouse, we’re exploring tips from FINRA, a reliable financial source.


Many aspects and terms of Social Security are confusing. The following pertain particularly to widows.


Lump Sum Death Benefits

People are often confused about the Social Security lump sum death benefit and the survivor benefit. The lump sum you get when your spouse dies is $255, an amount unadjusted from its inception in 1935. As you well know, $255 won’t help with much, but it’s still money you will want to be sure to get; the funeral home should notify the Social Security Administration, but if not, you’ll want to add this to your already long to-do list.


Survivor’s Benefit