I'm 71 and I took Social Security at 70. My wife will be 66 next year. Collecting on my record, I believe she'll be entitled to 50% of what I'd have received at my full retirement age (FRA), not 50% of what I receive now. Does her amount include cost-of-living (COLA) increases on my FRA?

At her FRA (66 and 4 months), your wife will be entitled to 50% of the amount you'd have received at your FRA (age 66), plus any COLA increases since that time.

You boosted your starting benefit by postponing your Social Security application until age 70, earning delayed retirement credits. During your lifetime, your wife's spousal benefit doesn't include those credits. But they’ll increase her survivor benefit if she outlives you. As a widow, she'll be entitled 100% of the amount you were collecting at your death.

My wife passed away in June of 2017 at age 60. I'm 63 years old and still working full time. If I retire at 65, can I collect on her Social Security and let my own benefit grow each year until I'm 70?

Yes. A widow or widower can claim a reduced survivor benefit as early as age 60, and later switch to his or her own bigger benefit.

If you were born in 1958 and file for a widower's benefit at 65, you'll get an amount equal to 94% of your FRA survivor benefit. If you delay applying for your own benefit, it will grow until you turn 70 even if you stop working at 65. Delayed retirement credits are based partly on your date of birth. At 70, you’ll get 126.7% of the amount you’d receive your FRA (66 and 8 months).

The bottom line

Special Social Security rules apply to surviving spouses.

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