survivor benefits
May 6, 2015 | by Jim Saulnier, CFP®
Full Retirement Age for Survivor Benefits

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Sometimes things that look simple and easy to understand can have a hidden “but” or two that makes them a little more confusing and complicated than you first imagined. For those eligible for Social Security survivor benefits, one item with a few such “buts” is their Full Retirement Age.

Long-time blog readers know when dealing with your Social Security retirement benefits your FRA is the age you are eligible to receive your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) and is typically the “middle year” in the Social Security claiming trifecta of age 62 benefits, FRA benefits and age 70 benefits. Although the name has the word “full” in it, and therefore implies you are receiving your “maximum” benefit, your Full Retirement Age does not pay your largest Social Security retirement benefit. One must generally wait until age 70 before filing to receive their maximum retirement benefit.

Social Security survivor benefits operate in a similar fashion but with two distinct differences. Your maximum survivor benefit is available to you at your FRA and for a select group of people their FRA for survivor benefits is not the same age as their FRA for retirement benefits!

Whichever benefits you are trying to claim, your Full Retirement Age is based on the year you were born. For instance, I was born in 1963 giving me a FRA for retirement and survivor benefits of 67. However, anyone born between 1943 and 1954 has a FRA of age 66; while those born between 1955 and 1960 have a FRA that varies on a sliding scale of between age 66 and two months and 66 and ten months. This sounds simple enough, but for a select group of people their Full Retirement Age for survivor benefits is different than their full retirement age for retirement benefits.

If you were born in or before 1954 or in or after 1962 your full retirement age for survivor benefits is identical to your full retirement age for retirement benefits. However, anyone born in the seven year period between 1955 and 1961 their FRA for survivor benefits differs from their FRA for retirement benefits. Fortunately for those select people the difference is actually in their favor because their FRA for survivor benefits begins at an earlier age than their FRA for retirement benefits!  And since you are eligible for your maximum survivor benefit at your FRA, this means those people born during that seven year period are eligible for their maximum survivor benefit a few months sooner than everyone else!

We have provided a few convenient charts to help you determine your Full Retirement Age for retirement benefits and your FRA for survivor benefits on our resources page. If you are new to this blog, or just need a bit of a refresher on the importance of your FRA simply type “Full Retirement Age” or just the initials “FRA” in the search box on this blogsite and all our blog posts discussing FRA will appear. And of course, for a better understanding and a deeper discussion of your FRA for survivor benefits click the play button below.

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