Dear Liz: I became a widow in my 40s. My children collected Social Security until reaching age 18. At age 60, I started collecting survivor’s benefits. Now that I’m 65, do I need to do anything to collect my late husband’s full Social Security amount at age 66?
Answer: Starting early means you won’t get his full Social Security benefit.
Survivor’s benefits are based on what your husband would have received at his full retirement age if he hadn’t started benefits when he died, or what he actually received if he had started benefits.
His benefit was reduced to reflect your early start, however. Only by starting at your own full retirement age of 66 would you have received 100% of his benefit.
Starting early with survivor’s benefits can be a good option if you had a solid work history and your own benefit eventually will be larger than the survivor’s benefit. If that’s the case, you can leave your own benefit to grow until it maxes out at age 70 while still receiving Social Security checks. If your own benefit won’t be larger, though, it may have been smarter to wait.