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This is an important question - what you can get from your spouse's pension as a widow/widower. Especially because, as today's email from the Motley Fool notes, 80% of widows living in poverty only became poor after their husbands died.

The federal law provides much better protection for survivors than it used to. If you're lucky enough to work for a private company with a traditional, defined benefit pension, your spouse has to agree to waive the survivor's benefit, and this is supposed to be explained in plain English. The federal government has a similar provision. But many state and local government pension plans still let the employee decide and the heck with was the spouse wants.

The usual survivor benefit is 50%. You are lucky to have the 100% option. And of course, some people say they cannot afford to take the reduced amount during the employee's lifetime.

All the more reason for people to find out now what they will have at retirement!
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