Why is my age 70 benefit not higher than my January amount?

Dear Rusty: I plan to retire in 2025 (the year I turn 70). Given that I’m still working, I’m delaying my Social Security until that year. I noticed on my Social Security statement that my payment in January of 2025 will not be much different than my age 70 amount in October of 2025. If that is truly the case, would it not be better for me to start taking Social Security payments starting in January of 2025. Am I missing anything here? Signed: Uncertain Senior

Dear Uncertain Senior: Your benefit in October 2025 at age 70 will be about 6 percent more than it will be in January 2025. If that isn’t shown on your Statement of Estimated Benefits, it may be due to a particular nuance in Social Security’s rules relating to Delayed Retirement Credits. When benefits are claimed mid-year after full retirement age, the DRCs earned in that year aren’t applied until the following January. Thus, someone who claims benefits to start mid-year will initially get the DRCs they’ve earned through the end of the previous year, but not immediately get credit for the additional DRCs earned during the claim-year. Those extra DRCs earned between January and the month benefits started will be applied the following January.

By way of example, if someone beyond FRA claims benefits to start in October 2024, their initial SS retirement benefit will be what they were entitled to at the end of 2023 and would not include DRCs earned between January 2024 and September 2024. They will collect that initial January 2024 benefit until January 2025 when the DRCs earned in 2024 are applied, at which point their benefit would increase by 6 percent. There is, however, one exception to this rule, which is that all DRCs are immediately credited when benefits are claimed to start in the month age 70 is reached, so despite what your Statement of Estimated Benefits might reflect, if you claim for benefits to start in the month you turn 70 (October 2025) you will get your maximum age 70 benefit immediately and won’t need to wait until January 2026 for those extra DRCs to be applied.

Unfortunately, Social Security’s benefit estimator doesn’t explain how this nuance works and may show someone claiming mid-year receiving the same benefit as for the preceding January, without further explanation. That is, in my opinion, a flaw in the estimator which may result in people making a wrong decision on when to claim their Social Security benefit.

Nevertheless, rest assured that your benefit in October 2025 (the month you turn 70) will be your maximum amount — 6 percent  more than it would be if you claimed benefits to start in January 2025, and you won’t need to wait until the following January to get the DRCs earned earlier in 2025.