May be. It depends on whether your spouse has chosen a monthly payment based solely on their life expectancy or a monthly payment that continues throughout your life – ie the “joint and survivor” benefit option. If you are not sure what your spouse has chosen, contact the company paying the pension.
As you might expect, with the “spouse and survivor” option, the monthly payment amount is smaller because the chances of one of you living longer are greater. Additionally, many plans offer different payment options: you can choose a setup that pays 100% to the surviving spouse, 75%, 50%, etc. The higher the payment promised to the surviving spouse, the lower the monthly payment will be.
Once the payment decision has been made, it generally cannot be changed. So if your spouse hasn’t retired yet, your best bet is usually to make sure he or she chooses “spouse and survivor” – or you could be in serious financial danger if your spouse predeceases you. You can also choose the highest payout tied to the retiree’s lifetime and invest the difference to build up a bigger nest egg. If your spouse dies shortly after retiring, you’re out of luck.