Ask Larry: Will Social Security Reduce My Monthly Benefits If I Wait Past 70?

Today’s column addresses questions about what happens if you delay filing for Social Security retirement benefits past 70, whether someone can falsely claim spousal benefits on someone else’s record and when survivor’s benefits can be paid and why they may not be. Larry Kotlikoff is a Professor of Economics at Boston University and the founder and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc, which markets Maximize My Social Security and MaxiFi Planner.

See more Ask Larry answers here.

Have Social Security questions of your own you’d like answered? Ask Larry about Social Security here.

Will Social Security Reduce My Monthly Benefits If I Wait Past 70?

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Hi Larry, for financial reasons that I won’t go into here, I believe that it will be advantageous for me to delay my Social Security retirement benefits past 70. I’ll wait perhaps about six months past my 70th birthday. Will Social Security reduce my monthly benefits when I do collect? Thanks, Parker

Hi Parker, Your benefit rate won’t be reduced if you wait past 70 to claim benefits. However, delayed retirement credits (DRCs) can’t be credited for months starting with the month that a person reaches 70, so you won’t get any higher benefit rate by waiting past 70 than you would have received if you’d claimed your benefits starting with the month you reach 70.

If you apply for benefits after reaching 70, you will have the option to claim your benefits retroactively for a maximum of six months if you so choose. My company’s software — Maximize My Social Security or MaxiFi Planner — can help you game out what will happen if you claim at various ages so you can better plan your strategy knowing the available options and their ramifications. Social Security calculators provided by other companies or non-profits may provide proper suggestions if they were built with extreme care. Best, Larry

Can Someone Falsely Collect Benefits From You If They Claim To Be Married To You?

Hi Larry, My personal information, including my Social Security number, was stolen. Could someone falsely collect benefits from me if they claim to be married to me in a foreign country? If so, how do I go about proving that this is happening? Thanks, Jeff

Hi Jeff, You would have to be drawing your retirement benefits in order for someone to collect spousal benefits on your Social Security record. And when a person claims spousal benefits, Social Security requires certification of the marital facts from the worker whose record the spousal benefits are claimed on. So I can’t imagine a circumstance in which someone could be drawing spousal benefits from your account without your knowledge.

If you think that someone may have falsely claimed benefits from Social Security using your identity, you can check with Social Security to find out. In the extremely unlikely event that’s happened to you, you’ll need to submit satisfactory evidence of your identity to Social Security. Best, Larry

Why Can’t I Get My My Survivor’s Benefits?

Hi Larry, My husband died over five years ago and I would like to know why I cannot get survivors benefits based on his record. I am 68 and am still working and receive my Social Security retirement benefits. But my widow’s benefits are due to me . Why can’t I receive them? I am his surviving spouse. We were married over 34 years. Thanks, Kristen

Hi Kristen, I’m sorry for your loss.

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough information in your question for me to be able to give you a definitive answer. What I can tell you is that it sounds like you’d probably meet the requirements for widow’s benefits. But if you’re drawing your own Social Security retirement benefits, then you could only be paid widow’s benefits if your widow’s rate is higher than your own retirement benefit rate. Generally, the surviving member of a couple can be paid the higher of their own retirement benefit rate or their deceased spouse’s retirement benefit rate, not both.

If you think that you should qualify for widow’s benefits and you haven’t applied for them, you’ll probably want to contact Social Security to see about filing an application.

However, if your husband was receiving survivor benefits from a former spouse’s Social Security record, then you couldn’t be eligible for those benefits. Social Security survivor benefits can only be paid to eligible family members of the deceased person. If a person is married and they’re receiving survivor benefits, those benefits cannot be passed on to their surviving spouse when they die. Best, Larry

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