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Social Security: What you need to know

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Q: Will my SSA survivor benefits increase if I delay taking them past full retirement age?

A: No. Unlike your own Social Security retirement amount, survivors benefits do not continuing increasing if you delay starting them past your full retirement age (FRA).

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Up to age 70, your retirement amount increases with each month you delay starting benefits past full retirement. Learn about these increases, called delayed retirement credits, at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/delayret.htm.

These increases do not apply to SSA survivor benefits. Survivors benefits reach their maximum if you delay starting them to your survivors full retirement age.

Note that 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.

Q: Is there an age limit to how long my Social Security retirement amount might increase if I continue working?

A: No. Your SSA retirement amount is largely based on your best 35 years of employment, using your gross wages or net income from self-employment, weighted for inflation.

If higher than a year used, new earnings replace the lower year, potentially resulting in a higher payment amount.

Review of amounts due to new earnings is an annual, automatic, process whether a person is receives reduced benefits or is past full retirement age.

The automatic review based on new earnings usually occurs in the fall, once employer W-2's are all processed. For example, increases in benefits due to 2011 earnings were paid in November 2012, retroactive to January 2012.

Letters are sent when benefit amounts change. See How Work Affects Your Benefits, online at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10069.html.

Did You Know? Be careful when searching the Internet for Social Security information.

Watch out for private for-profit websites that charge money for services

provided free by Social Security, including name changes on a Social Security card or SSA publications. Go to www.socialsecurity.gov for SSA information and free services.

Based in Grand Forks, Howard I. Kossover is the Social Security Public Affairs Specialist for North Dakota and western Minnesota. Send general interest questions to him at howard.kossover@ssa.gov. Read his online articles at socialsecurityinfo.areavoices.com.

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