Retired With Children?

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By Ellen Zwierzynski
Social Security District Manager in Elizabeth

The idea of someone being “retired with children” may seem like the seed of another television sit-com or reality show.  But the fact is that it’s becoming more and more common for older people to have minor children in their care — whether by bringing new children into the world, taking over the care of grandchildren or adopting children who need nurturing parents.

So it’s important to know that if you receive Social Security benefits and have minor children who depend on you, you might be able to receive benefits for them, too.  This is true whether you receive benefits as a retiree or you receive Social Security disability or survivors benefits.

To get benefits, a child must have a parent (or in some cases a grandparent) who:
•    is disabled or retired and entitled to Social Security benefits; or
•    died after having worked long enough in a job where he or she paid Social Security taxes.

The child also must be:
•    Unmarried; and
•    Younger than age18; or
•    18-19 years old and a full-time student (no higher than grade 12); or
•    18 or older and disabled. (The disability must have started before age 22.)

Within a family, a child may receive up to one-half of the parent’s full retirement or disability benefit, or 75 percent of the deceased parent’s basic Social Security benefit. However, there is a limit to the amount of money that can be paid to a family. The maximum family payment can be from 150 to 180 percent of the parent’s full benefit amount. If the total amount payable to all family members exceeds this limit, each child’s benefit is reduced proportionately until the total equals the maximum allowable amount.

For example, if you are retired with a minor child and your benefit payment is $1,000 a month, your minor child could get up to half of that each month, or $500.  However, if you had two minor children in your care, the maximum your entire family could receive would be between $1,500 and $1,800 — that’s $1,000 for you and between $250 and $400 per child.

Whether you receive Social Security benefits because you have a disabling condition, due to the death of a spouse or because you’ve reached retirement, if you have minor children, you’ll want to read Social Security’s online publication, Benefits for Children at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10085.html.


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