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What Spouses Should Know About Pension Benefits

How to choose the payment option that works best for you

By Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement


This article focuses on two types of benefits:


Single Life Benefit: Monthly payments based only on your expected lifetime, which means the benefits stop when you die.


Why is There a Spousal Consent Form?



How Do My Choices Affect the Benefits?


If you choose the survivor’s benefit, it means that you will receive lower monthly benefits than the monthly benefits based on your lifetime alone. But it guarantees a steady stream of income for two lifetimes — yours and your spouses.


Sometimes you have a choice of whether the surviving spouse will receive 50 pecent or 75 percent of your pension benefit. There may be other choices. If so, make sure you understand what they are. Ask the pension plan administrator how much you would get under each option or type of benefit that you can choose.

Here's an example of how survivor's benefits can work, with the assumption that your husband will draw a pension based on his employment history: If you and your husband choose to receive his pension as a lifetime benefit while he is alive, you both might receive $1,600 a month in pension benefits. This income would stop when he dies.


Under a joint and survivor annuity, the benefit might be $1,300 a month while your husband is alive. However, when he dies, your benefit would be $650 a month for as long as you live.


How Do You Decide Which Benefit to Choose?


Start by adding up your sources of retirement income by using WISER’s worksheet, Get Your Ducks in a Row. This worksheet will help you and your spouse estimate what benefits will be available to each of you as a widow or widower and decide how important a survivor’s benefit is to each of you.

Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement
By Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement
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