Q&A: Waiting to collect Social Security

Dear Liz: I understand your suggestion about waiting until you are 70 to apply for Social Security because you’ll get a larger amount. However, I applied at 62 and no matter how much more I would have received at 70, I would never recoup an amount equal to what I received. My husband chose to wait and died before he reached 70.

Answer: If your husband’s benefit was larger than your own, then his decision to delay was a real gift to you.

When one member of a couple dies, the survivor gets only the larger of the two Social Security benefits the couple used to receive. Losing one benefit can cause a sharp drop in the survivor’s income. That’s among the reasons why financial planners urge the higher earner to wait as long as possible: to maximize the benefit the survivor will have to live on for years or even decades.

If your husband had remained alive, then your early start could have been a mistake. Most people live past the “break even” point where the larger checks you could get from delaying more than outweighed the smaller checks you passed up in the meantime.


  1. Herman cortez says

    I will be 68 in January. I have a retirement pension. I have not drew my social security yet. Because of my pension I will not receive my. Full amount of social security. I will be penalized about less than half. The rest will be eaten up paying Medicare. So I am expecting less that $100 a month in my pocket. My wife just turned 62. Whenever she wants to retire she will only have her social security to live on. According to her last social security statement she will collect just under $2000 a month. My question is, will her social security be penalized just because mine will be? That’s why I haven’t collected my social security yet.