Receiving Survivors Benefits Early
The earliest a widow or widower can start receiving Social Security survivors benefits based on age will remain at age 60.
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, they 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. Talk to a Social Security representative about the options available.
Pros And Cons
There are disadvantages and advantages to taking survivors benefits 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.
About The Chart
The chart 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.
|Year of Birth 1.||Full (survivors) Retirement Age 2.||At age 62 a $1000 survivors benefit would be reduced to 3.||Months between age 60 and full retirement age||Monthly % reduction 4.|
|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|
- If the survivor was born on January 1st of any year, use the information for the previous year.
If someone was born on the 1st of the month, we figure the benefit (and the full retirement age) as if their birthday was in the previous month.
Note: The full retirement age may be different for retirement benefits.
- The $1000 benefit would be reduced to $715 for anyone who started receiving survivors benefits at age 60.
- Monthly reduction percentages are approximate due to rounding. The maximum benefit is limited to what the worker would receive if they were still alive. Survivors benefits that start at age 60 are always reduced by 28.50 percent.
How To Use This Information
Each survivor's situation is different. Talk to a Social Security representative before you decide to retire.
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.