Husbands Ignore Future Widow’s Needs

Jun 11, 2019 / Amanda Chase, Horsesmouth Assistant Editor

The amount of money a widow receives from Social Security can mean the difference between comfort and hardship. Husbands have a lot of control over how this will turn out. Each additional year they postpone collecting their own Social Security adds another 7.3% to the amount a future widow will receive every month from the program’s survivor benefit. But husbands can be a stubborn lot.

Previous research has shown that a large minority fail to take their wives into account when deciding to start their Social Security. A new study confirms this in an online experiment designed to raise husbands’ awareness of the financial impact their claiming age could have on a spouse. The men’s ages ranged from 45 to 62.

In the experiment, the researchers displayed Social Security’s benefit information to the men three different ways. In the first format, a control group saw the basic information: the husband’s full retirement benefit, and then a link to a second page displaying his benefits for various claiming ages. A second format also displayed his full benefit, but the link went to a page with estimates of his widow’s survivor benefits, based on the husband’s various claiming ages—the later he files, the more she would receive. The third format had the same information as the second format, but it was presented on a single web page.

Regardless of the way the survivor benefits were displayed, the men weren’t persuaded to postpone their own benefits to one day help their widows. Potential explanations include their feelings about work, existing health issues, and whether they will get a defined benefit pension from an employer. The impact of widowhood is often significant. An average widow’s total income drops 35% when a husband passes away, the researchers estimated from financial data for married men who had retired. The earlier the husband had started his benefits, the larger the drop in the widow’s income after the couple’s second Social Security check stops coming in.

You can find this article at Squared Away Blog and the research paper here.

 

Comments


Hi Amanda, keep in mind that the average 35% drop-off for surviving widow's may be true, the overall expenses drop as well for her. I work from the other end of the narrative in that we are all responsible for ourselves and not the government so it is wise for couples to save and spend less than they earn resulting in them controlling their destiny. Now I realize their is probably 20% who absolutely need their deceased spouses social security but I don't think Horsesmouths clients (financial professionals) serve that demographic.

1
Amanda, Excellent article - Thank you!

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