family maximum, child in care
April 18, 2018 | by Chris Stein, CFP®, Finance Instructor at Colorado State University
Spousal Child in Care Benefits

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We recently received this excellent question regarding spousal child in care benefits, so I want to share it with all of you.

“My husband filed for SS at 62. He did not work much and his benefit is just under $400 with another just over $200 for our 15-year-old daughter. Now the SSA has said that I qualify for spousal child in care benefits.  I make the most money, but I am 54 (1964) and am not planning to take MY SS until full retirement age when it will be very substantial. Is there any value in taking a spousal payment right now?  Does this affect my own retirement monthly amount? If so, how? ”

The short answer is that there is likely no benefit to claiming this benefit now, and could actually reduce the amount your family is receiving now!!  Let me explain…

Child in Care Benefits

  1. Yes, when you are caring for a child of a spouse receiving SS retirement benefits, you are eligible for the spousal child in care benefit. However, this benefit stops when the child turns 16 unless they are disabled, so for your 15-year-old daughter there is not much time left for you to get this benefit.
  2. Essentially this benefit is a normal spousal benefit without the normal rule that you be age 62. The fact you are caring for a minor child under age 16 releases you from the normal age requirement.
  3. Your family will be subject to the “family maximum”, which is between 150 and 180% of your husband’s benefit. Since your husband and daughter are already collecting 150% of his benefit as a pair, there will likely be no increase to the family benefit.  Instead, they will just split the $200 going to your daughter between you and your daughter.  My conclusion is based on my experience that almost everyone falls into the 150% max category.  The 180% limit is rarely seen.  Bottom line is that the benefit to the family will likely not noticeably increase if you claim this benefit.
  4. This point is the most troubling part of the scenario. If you start claiming half of that $200 as your own spousal benefit, it will be subject to the earnings test.  Since you indicate you are currently working and earning enough to generate a substantial SS benefit of your own, it is likely your earnings will wipe out the $100 attributed to you.  If this happens, you will have REDUCED the total amount coming in to the household from SS benefits.
  5. If you do claim this benefit, it will not affect your own benefit in the future.

Based on the above and the facts you have shared, I cannot imagine a scenario where it would be wise to claim this benefit at this time.

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