I’ve contacted Social Security five times to ask what I thought was a simple question and received conflicting information. I hope you can give me the correct answer. I’m 66 years old, retired, with a comfortable pension. I plan to hold off applying for Social Security until I’m 70. Let’s say I die at age 71. Assuming my wife is then at her full retirement age (66), is she entitled to the extra credits I receive from age 66 to age 70? Or only to the amount I’d receive at my full retirement age of 66?
As your survivor, she’s entitled to 100 percent of your Social Security benefit, including the credits you received for postponing your application from age 66 to age 70.
For readers who don’t know, when you postpone your Social Security application beyond your full retirement age, your benefit earns an extra 8 percent annual credit for up to four years of delay. For example, if your benefit at 66 would be $1,800 a month, but you don’t claim it until age 70, you’ll get $2,376 a month (plus any annual cost of living adjustments during those four years). These “delayed retirement credits” accrue on a monthly basis. For example, postponing your Social Security application for 18 months after turning 66 would boost your benefit by 12 percent.
You may have received conflicting answers to your question because during your lifetime, your wife’s maximum benefit based on your record is limited to 50 percent of what you’d get at age 66. But her maximum survivor benefit is 100 percent of the amount you were receiving — or were entitled to claim — at the time of your death, including any extra credits.
THE BOTTOM LINE Delaying your Social Security application increases your spouse’s future survivor benefit.
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