The earliest a widow or widower can start receiving Social Security survivors benefits based on age will remain at age 60. 

Receiving Survivors Benefits Early

As a general rule, survivors benefits based on age will be about the same total Social Security benefits over a lifetime, whether they start early or at full survivors retirement age. If monthly benefits start before full retirement age, the amount is smaller to take into account the longer period a person receives them.

Widows or widowers benefits based on age can start any time between age 60 and full retirement age as a survivor. If the benefits start at an earlier age, they are reduced a fraction of a percent for each month before full retirement age.

If a person receives widow's or widower's benefits, and will qualify for a retirement benefit that's more than their survivors benefit, he or she can switch to their own retirement benefit as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. The rules are complicated and vary depending on the situation, so talk to a Social Security representative about the options available.

About The Chart

The chart below lists full retirement ages for survivors based on year of birth. It includes examples of the age 62 survivors benefit based on an estimated monthly benefit of $1000 at full retirement age. Click on the year of birth to find out how much the benefit will be reduced if someone begins receiving survivors benefits between age 60 and full retirement age.

Note:

If the worker started receiving retirement benefits before his or her full retirement age, we cannot pay the full retirement age benefit amount on their record.

The maximum survivors benefit is limited to what he or she would receive if they were still alive.

1939 or earlier 65 $829 60 .475
1940 65 and 2 months $825 62 .460
1941 65 and 4 months $822 64 .445
1942 65 and 6 months $819 66 .432
1943 65 and 8 months $816 68 .419
1944 65 and 10 months $813 70 .407
1945 - 1956 66 $810 72 .396
1957 66 and 2 months $807 74 .385
1958 66 and 4 months $805 76 .375
1959 66 and 6 months $803 78 .365
1960 66 and 8 months $801 80 .356
1961 66 and 10 months $798 82 .348
1962 and later 67 $796 84 .339
  1. If the survivor was born on January 1st of any year, use the information for the previous year.
  2. If someone was born on the 1st of the month, we figure the benefit (and the full retirement age) as if his or her birthday was in the previous month.
    Note: The full retirement age may be different for retirement benefits.
  3. The $1000 benefit would be reduced to $715 for anyone who started receiving survivors benefits at age 60.
  4. Monthly reduction percentages are approximate due to rounding. The maximum benefit is limited to what the worker would receive if he or she were still alive. Survivors benefits that start at age 60 are always reduced by 28.50%.

How To Use This Information

Each survivor's situation is different.

You cannot use the Retirement Estimator to determine benefit amounts for a surviving spouse. However, if you know what the worker's yearly lifetime earnings were, you can use our Online Calculator to get a rough estimate of what the benefits would be for the surviving spouse at full retirement age.

If you know what the widow or widowers benefit is at full retirement age, you can use the information for the survivor's year of birth to find out how much the widows or widowers benefit would be at various ages.

Pros And Cons

There are disadvantages and advantages to taking survivors benefit before full retirement age. The advantage is that the survivor collects benefits for a longer period of time. The disadvantage is that the survivors benefit may be reduced.

Each person's situation is different. Make sure you talk to a Social Security representative before you decide to retire.

ALERT

If you decide to delay your benefits until after age 65, you should still apply for Medicare benefits within three months of your 65th birthday. If you wait longer, your Medicare medical insurance (Part B) and prescription drug coverage (Part D) may cost you more money.