Welcome to The Mighty Widow!

I’m Maryalene. I became a widow at age 35 when my husband, Tom, died at age 37.

He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer three years earlierLaPonsie-0002, and we went through chemo, radiation and a major surgery before we finally discovered it was a lost cause. I say “we” but it was really “he.” I basically watched helplessly from the sidelines, trying desperate to find the right things to say and do that would make dying seem somehow ok.

Together, we helped create five beautiful children; our youngest was only six months old when he died.

Now that Tom is gone, I’m working hard to pick up the pieces. As of this writing, we’re 2.5 years into the journey, and bits of normalcy are finally starting to click into place. I’m also finally ready to start talking about Tom and what we went through. I’ve never been able to stick with a journal, but I like the accountability and community of blogs so we’ll give this a try.

I also hope to put together a list of resources for widowed mothers — everything from who to call the day after a death to how to carry on in his absence.

I’m so glad you’re joining me here. I hope, together, we can be Mighty Widows.


    1. Hi…we read your March 2015 article on SS Spousal Benefits. No matter how hard we try we get conflicting answers to this:

      When I reach 62 and my wife will then be 63, can I file and suspend benefits (or file restricted application??) but not collect and continue to work…but my wife files for spousal benefits on my work record? Even if it means a reduced spousal benefit for her is it possible at all?

      Thanks in advance.


      1. Hi Bill,

        Unfortunately, you need to be at your full retirement age (which is age 66 for those born between 1943-1954) to use either the File & Suspend or Restricted Application strategies.

        Even more unfortunate, it’s my understanding the recent budget bill is eliminating both these options for those born after 1954.

        Wish I had better news to share!


        Disclaimer: I am happy to provide information on finance and retirement issues, but please be aware I am not a tax professional nor a financial planner.

    1. Maryalene –

      I read your informative article in US News and World Reports. I had heard that changes were made, but am unclear on the implications for our circumstances.

      I turned 62 in November of 2015 and my wife will turn 62 in September of 2016.
      We have a significant amount saved in our IRAs, and thought we had a good plan in place that would allow us to retire in January 2016, by augmenting regular withdrawls from the IRA with an optimized plan for taking Social Security benefits.

      We were planning on filing for her Social Security when she turns 62, which we know is less than she would get if she waited until her full retirement age of 66, and I thought I would get about 37% of that reduced amount. Then, when I turn 70, we were going to reverse that scenario, as we let mine grow at 8% per year to the maximum amount. I think I will make it to 84 at least based on my lifestyle and family health history.

      She has longevity on her side, so I wanted to delay my benefit as long as possible, so that she gets 100% of mine after I am gone.

      I think we can still carry out my side of the plan, since I turned 62 before 1/1/16, but what I am unsure of is whether she can claim her benefit at all when she turns, 62, and still get half of mine when I turn 70, and then 100% of mine, assuming I predecease her. I don’t think that I can get a portion of hers, since she turns 62 in 2016.

      Let me know your thoughts on this strategy, and what is still doable. We are on the verge of retirement but could alter our plans if needed. If you want more details, my email address is included above.



      1. Hi Ken,

        Thanks so much for your note, and I apologize for the delay in responding. With all the holiday happenings, checking the blog has taken a back seat.

        I, of course, have to preface this by saying I am not a tax or finance professional so you should consider this as a conversation between friends rather than any type of professional advice. However, as a personal finance writer, here are my thoughts:

        1. While it is true you are grandfathered under the old restricted application rules, I don’t think your scenario will work as I understand it. It sounds like you want your wife to file for early benefits at age 62 and then you file a restricted application for spousal benefits at that time. However, even under the old system, you can only submit a restricted application at age 66. If you file before then, you fall under the “deemed filing” rules which mean you get either your benefits or spousal benefits, whichever is greater. You don’t have any choice in the matter.

        2. You could have your wife file for benefits at age 62 and then you could file a restricted application at age 66 (assuming Congress doesn’t change the rules before then). However, I am not sure if your wife could switch to a spousal benefit at age 70. That’s not something I’ve researched before — maybe a topic for a future article!

        3. Depending on the size of your IRA, I would consider whether you could use that money to retire early while delaying Social Security until age 66. This is where a finance professional would be helpful. They could probably run the numbers to help you understand how much you could comfortably withdraw from your account and still have it last your anticipated life expectancy. You may also be able to ramp down the withdrawals significantly in the future if you are getting greater Social Security benefits by waiting until your full retirement age.

        4. A final option to consider is whether part-time or seasonal work may fit within your lifestyle goals and bring in enough money to delay Social Security for a few years.

        Those last two points are simply some food for thought. Bottom line to your suggested scenario is that you would both be essentially applying early if you file next year, and there is no opportunity to defer benefits until age 70 if you file before age 66.

        Hope that makes sense and is helpful. As always, talking to a pro is a good way to run a few different scenarios to maximize your retirement money. If you do decide to go that route, look for someone who charges a flat fee for a consultation rather than someone who works for “free” and then will try to convince you to move your investments to high-commission products.


    1. Hi Maryalene, It’s so great to have your voice in the world.
      I’m running a contest to find the next innkeeper/owner for my inn, the Blue Hill Inn on the coast of Maine. I think this will appeal to many of your readers as a great gift idea, or as a fantastic option for themselves. Could you help us share this opportunity?
      All the best,

      An inn, a restaurant, a seaside village, a career, a life change—sounds like a great holiday gift, doesn’t it?
      You could give someone the gift of a lifetime, for just $150

      Looking for the perfect gift for the entrepreneur in your family? Your friend who has always dreamed of starting a restaurant? That super friendly, go getting, Martha Stewart type who always shows up with delicious, beautiful food? The complainer who is so tired of city living? The hospitality queen who loves to entertain? The history buff who refinishes furniture and runs an antique shop? Or just a little life-changing something for yourself?

      We have the perfect answer. Give them the Blue Hill Inn! Or even better (for your wallet), give them all a chance to win the inn. For $150, you can buy an entry fee and present the lucky recipient with the gift code and instructions on how to enter. You can even suggest ideas as the happy recipient drafts the winning essay. The deadline for submissions is Dec. 31 so don’t delay.

      The inn has 11 guest rooms in the 1830s inn building and 2 apartment-like suites in a more modern Cape next door. The inn has a commercial kitchen and a sunny 30-seat dining room. The property has fruit trees and numerous sitting areas and gardens. The inn has earned a wonderful reputation and great reviews on TripAdvisor. The property is two blocks from Blue Hill Bay and a town park with a swimming beach, in the seaside village of Blue Hill, Maine.

      To enter, candidates must write a 200-word essay explaining why they would love to own and operate the Blue Hill Inn. Entrants must include an entry fee of $150, which will be returned if sufficient entries are not received. Full contest details can be found at WintheBlueHillInn on Facebook or at winthebluehillinn.com. The winner will also receive a hefty check to help them get started, $25,000, if enough entries are received.

      1. Hi Sarah,

        Sounds like an intriguing contest!

        While I don’t think I have a good platform to share your contest, I am happy to publish your comment here.

        Have a great day!


    1. Hi,
      I am sorry for your loss, but also proud of you that, you have skill and start reseach for people like us.
      My husband is born on 25th May 1951, and I am 7th Sep. 1951, are we eligible for spousal benefits?
      Appriceate your thoughts

      1. Hi Niru,

        Thanks so much for your kind note.

        It sounds like you’re asking about restricted applications, which allow someone to receive spousal benefits while deferring their own benefits. Under the changes made by the recent budget act, those born in 1953 or earlier are grandfathered in under the previous rules regarding restricted applications. So yes, you should be able to file one once you hit age 66. The only catch is that either you or your husband will have to file and receive benefits in order for the other person to file the restricted application.

        In your case, using a restricted application may look like this:

        1. Your husband begins receiving Social Security after May 25, 2017.
        2. You file a restricted application after September 7, 2017 for spousal benefits.
        3. You defer taking your benefits until age 70, at which time you can switch to your own Social Security benefit (assuming it’s greater than your spousal benefit amount).

        Of course, that assumes Congress doesn’t make any further changes before you reach age 66.

        This reply also comes with the disclaimer that I’m providing information based upon my understanding of the law and should be not be construed as legal of financial advice. It’s always best to consult with a pro for definitive answers.

        However, I hope this helps!


    1. Re Spousal social security benefits

      I am using this medium to ask a question. I am a CPA in St Louis. A client whose annual social security benefits are $ 30,600 and , whose wife was born in 1966, is considering waiting until age 70 to draw. What would her annual benefits be then ?
      Thank you.
      Warren Fine

    1. Maryalene,
      We are getting conflicting information from Social Security. I began drawing Social security at 66, but continued working. My wife will be 65 in September of 2017. She wants to work until she is 66 and then retire. Can she draw 50 percent of the amount of my retirement amount now and revert to her own social security when she turns 66 or does she have to wait until she is 70? Will her own social security retirement or mine be reduced if she takes advantage of this?



      1. Hi Tom,

        You’re talking about a restricted application here, and your wife should be grandfathered into the old rules that allow her to file for spousal benefits only. This is what the IRS says:

        Can I restrict my application for benefits and apply only for spouse’s benefits and delay filing for my own retirement benefit in order to earn delayed retirement credits?

        If you turn 62 before January 2, 2016, deemed filing rules will not apply if you file at full retirement age or later. This means that you may file for either your spouse’s benefit or your retirement benefit without being required or “deemed” to file for the other. In your case, you may also restrict your application to apply only for spouse’s benefits and delay filing for your own retirement in order to earn delayed retirement credits. However, if you turn age 62 on or after January 2, 2016, you are required or “deemed” to file for both your own retirement and for any benefits you are due as a spouse, no matter what age you are.

        That’s FAQ #4 at this link: https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/deemedfaq.html

        VERY IMPORTANT: This only works if your wife has reached full retirement age. If she files now, she will fall under the deemed filing rules and will get either her own benefits or the spousal benefits, whichever is greater. However, if she waits until full retirement age (66 for those born from ’43-’54), she can file a restricted application for spousal benefits and then let her own benefit amount grow until whenever she decides to switch over. Your benefit amount shouldn’t be affected regardless of when she files.

        This, of course, comes with the caveat that I’m a personal finance writer and not a financial planner, accountant or anything similar. While I am happy to provide information based on my knowledge of the subject, this response shouldn’t be construed as professional advice.

        However, I hope this helps point you in the right direction!


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