WHEN YOU CLAIM Social Security retirement benefits, it isn’t just your spouse who can receive benefits based on your earnings record. If you have dependent children, they too may receive Social Security.
Unmarried children are eligible to receive benefits if they are under age 18, up to age 19 if they’re still in high school, and at any age if they become disabled before age 22. Your children may be eligible to receive a sum equal to as much as half of your benefit as of your full retirement age. Moreover, a spouse of any age may receive benefits if he or she is caring for a child who is under age 16 or who is disabled. A child can be a biological child, adopted, a stepchild and sometimes even a dependent grandchild.
There is, however, a limit to Social Security’s generosity. The total amount paid out to you and your family is typically capped at between 150% and 180% of your full retirement age benefit. Spousal benefits paid to an ex-spouse don’t count toward the family maximum.
If you are age 62 and have children who would qualify for benefits, you may want to claim benefits right away, despite the many sound reasons for delaying Social Security. After all, your children will only get older—and, if you delay claiming benefits, they might not receive any money from Social Security. But there is a cost. Your benefit will be permanently reduced, as will any survivor benefit that’s paid based on your earnings record. One possibility: If your children are no longer eligible for benefits once you reach your full Social Security retirement age of 66 or 67, you might suspend benefits to earn delayed retirement credits from then until age 70—but this may cause your spouse to lose his or her spousal benefits for that length of time.
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