Social Security and survivor benefits

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Q. I decided to receive my Social Security benefits at age 62. As my wife reaches age 62, she also will accept the reduced amount. Question is: After my death, can she drop her Social Security value and receive my Social Security value maximum amount at my age of 70?
— Husband

A. Afraid not. The elections you’ve already made will impact what your wife can do in the future.

Your spouse is not able collect a higher benefit after your death based on the date when you would have turned 70, said Jeff Rossi, a certified financial planner with Peak Wealth Advisors in Holmdel.

“If you waited to collect until 70, then it would be a different situation, but since you started at age 62, she won’t be able to maximize her benefit,” Rossi said.

But, there is some silver lining to your situation.

Rossi said when one spouse dies, a surviving spouse may be eligible for a survivor benefit based on the deceased spouse’s record.

Because you decided to take your benefit at 62, you are receiving a lesser percentage of the amount that you would have received at full retirement age, Rossi said. When you die, your wife is eligible to receive a survivors benefit based on 82.5 percent of your full retirement age benefit, which is also known as your PIA (Primary Insurance Amount).

“So if you are receiving 75 percent of your PIA now, she would be able to collect an increased amount as a survivor benefit,” Rossi said. “She would get that amount if she takes the survivor benefit at her full retirement age.”

If she takes the survivors benefit early, Rossi said, the amount would be reduced.

The survivor benefit that she receives will not increase beyond that amount, so there is no benefit to waiting until age 70, he said.

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NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.