DRC’s Apply To SSA Retirement Benefits

Q: I understand that my own Social Security retirement amount can continue growing until age 70, if I do not start receiving my retirement benefits. Since I am also a widow, would potential SSA survivor benefits continue increasing if not claimed before age 70?

A: Unlike your own Social Security retirement amount, survivors benefits to you do not continue increasing if delayed past full retirement age (FRA).

For your own Social Security retirement benefit, the monthly amount increases by a certain percentage if you delay starting benefits beyond full retirement age (FRA). This monthly increase, called a delayed retirement credit (DRC), no longer applies when you reach age 70, even if you continue to delay taking benefits. The percentage of increase depends on your year of birth. For births in 1943 or later, the DRC increase works out to a yearly increase of 8 percent. Again, based on the number of months involved, DRC’s apply only if you do not start receiving your Social Security retirement past your full retirement age.

Delayed retirement credit increases do not apply to Social Security survivors benefits. As with retirement, Social Security survivors benefits are reduced by the number of months involved if started before full retirement age. They generally reach their maximum amount if not started until you reach your survivors full retirement age.

Unlike your own retirement benefit, delaying the start of a survivors benefit past your survivor full retirement age does not increase the monthly amount payable. Maximum survivor amounts can also be limited depending on the age of the deceased when he or she started Social Security benefits on their record. 

Your survivors full retirement age is also based on your year of birth.  However, note that full retirement age (FRA) is different for survivors benefits compared to your retirement FRA. See http://www.socialsecurity.gov/survivorplan/ifyou5.htm  for general information about amounts of survivors benefits at different ages.

Based on age, you can start Social Security survivors benefits at age 60, younger than the SSA retirement age of 62.  

More about SSA survivors benefits is at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/survivors.htm and in the SSA publication Survivors Benefits.