Q&A: Social Security minors’ benefits

Dear Liz: One thing I rarely see mentioned in discussions of when to take Social Security is the benefit for minors who are still in school. I took my benefit at 62. Social Security called me and told me that my daughter was eligible as well. We collected over $60,000 by the time she graduated high school.

Answer: Child benefits can indeed change the math of Social Security claiming strategies.

To get a child benefit, the parent must be receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits. The child must be unmarried and benefits stop at age 18, unless she is still in high school — in which case checks stop at graduation or two months after she turns 19, whichever comes first. Child benefits are available for those 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22.

The child can receive up to half the parent’s benefit, although both benefits are subject to the earnings test if the parent started Social Security before his or her full retirement age. The earnings test reduces checks by $1 for every $2 the parent earns over a certain amount, which in 2019 was $17,640. Also, there’s a limit to how much a family can get based on one person’s work record. The family limit is 150% to 180% of the parent’s full benefit amount.

Many free Social Security claiming calculators don’t include child benefits as one of the variables they include, so if your child would be eligible it can make sense to pay $40 for a customized strategy from a more sophisticated calculator, such as the one at Maximize My Social Security.

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