• Chris Stein, CFP®

Question on Switching from Survivor Benefits

The advantages to claiming survivor benefits versus your own benefits can be confusing. We recently received the following question from a reader on just this topic.

“I am turning 66 and have been receiving survivor’s benefits from my late wife since age 60. Do I need to register for my own benefits and then suspend them until I’m 70, when I believe I must change over to my own benefits? Or can I just wait until age 70 to apply for my own benefits and still see the 7% yearly increase? Thanks.”

This question is best answered in a couple of parts.

Not Required

First off, you are never required to change from survivor benefits to your own benefits. You may want to switch over if your own benefit is higher, but you won’t be forced to switch.

Paperwork Mess

The reader asked if he should file and suspend his benefits until he’s age 70. Claiming and suspending his benefit will actually shut off his survivor’s benefit and create a huge paperwork mess. He’s better off just waiting to file his claim for his own benefit until he’s ready to actually collect.

Yearly Increase

If the reader leaves his own benefit unclaimed until age 70, the benefit will continue to grow. However, the benefit will grow at a rate of 8% (or 3/4 of 1% per month) annually, not the 7% the reader asked about.

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