Survivor benefit


Q. I had always believed, when you retired, your choice of taking the survivor benefit or not taking it was irrevocable. Now, I am told that if you chose the survivor benefit and your spouse died, you could reverse your option and collect your full annuity. Which is true? My thought was not to take the survivor Benefit and buy a life insurance policy with the savings. I work for the Postal Service.

A. Both answers are correct. If you elect a survivor annuity, you cannot revoke that decision. However, if your spouse were to die, that election would no longer be valid and, beginning with her date of death, you could receive the annuity you would have received had you not made a survivor election.

Just to be clear: You don’t have a choice about whether to provide a full survivor annuity for your spouse. It’s the law. You could only elect less than that (or none at all) with the written and notarized consent of your spouse. Choosing to buy an insurance policy instead of a survivor annuity is seldom a good idea.


About Author

Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to

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