Chris Stein, CFP®
Survivor Benefit Claiming Age
We received the following question regarding survivor benefits this week:
“I am currently 62, born in 1956. My retirement benefit if I claim today is right at $1,000 per month. If I wait to my full retirement age (66 and 4 months) I will receive $1,500 per month. My husband is very sick and will likely pass away in the next year. If I file for my own benefit now, will that affect my survivor benefit (he is receiving about $2,300 per month)? If not, will I have to wait until I turn 66 and 4 months to receive his $2,300?”
I am sorry to hear about your husband’s health. If you were to start your retirement benefits today, it will have no effect on what you can collect as survivor benefits on his record.
What will affect the survivor benefit is when you choose to move from your own to his survivor benefit. You are eligible to receive 100% of his benefit once you reach your full retirement age (FRA) for survivor benefits. Believe it or not, this age is different than your FRA for your own retirement benefits. You fall into a range of birth years where the FRA for survivor benefits and for retirement benefits is different. You are correct that your FRA for retirement benefits is 66 and 4 months. However, your FRA for survivor benefits is age 66. You can see this on the Social Security table we have replicated on our resources page at this link:
The table for retirement benefits can be found here:
So the bottom line answer is that you can file now for your benefits and collect them up until your husband passes away. At that point you can choose to switch immediately, or wait until you turn 66. There is no reason to delay past your age 66 since survivor benefits will not grow past that point.
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