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Sometimes Trying to Maximize Will Minimize Your Social Security I thought I was done, at least for a while, writing columns about Social Security maximizing strategies. But as I've pointed out in past columns, probably 80 percent of the emails I get from my readers have to do with this topic de jour of the baby …Read more. Benefit Checks Are Accurate Q: I am 82 years old. My husband is 85. Based on a recent column you wrote about wives getting benefits from their husband's account, I think I am due more money from Social Security. How do I go about getting what is rightfully mine? A: I probably …Read more. Clarifying Widow's Benefits Q: In past columns, you have said that if a woman is 66 or older when her husband dies, her widow's benefit will equal what the husband was getting at the time of death. But when my husband died several months ago, I started getting slightly more …Read more. Full Retirement Age Going Up Q: You keep saying the full retirement age is 66. But as you know, many of us have to wait longer to get full Social Security benefits. For example, I was born in 1955 and I have to be 66 and 2 months. What I want to know is this: If I want to take …Read more.
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Family's Benefits Subject to Maximum Limit


Q: I am a 44-year-old widow. I have two young children, ages 5 and 8, who are getting monthly benefits on their deceased father's Social Security account. I currently work full time. I would like to be able to stay home as a full- time mom to care for my kids. If I quit my job, would I be eligible for Social Security widow's benefits?

A: As a young widow with minor children in your care, you are technically eligible for what the Social Security Administration calls "mother's benefits." Whether or not you receive those benefits depends on a provision of the law that sets a maximum amount that can be paid to any one family.

You said your two children already get monthly survivor benefits from Social Security. It usually takes about three people on an account to reach the maximum benefit limit. So, if you were added to the account, you should be due some extra money.

However, if you had three or more children, you would not be due any benefits because your family would already be receiving the maximum payout. Or to put it another way, adding you to an account with, for example, four kids already on it would merely be splitting the same-size pot five ways instead of four.

Again, with only two kids, there is still room for you on the account before it hits the maximum limit. How much you'll get depends on the maximum amount due on your husband's Social Security record, but it should be an amount pretty close to what each of your kids already receives. You can learn the exact sum by contacting your local Social Security office.

I'm sure whatever the amount is, it won't come close to replacing the salary you'll give up by quitting your job. But perhaps the satisfaction you'll receive from being a full-time mom will make up for your leaner family income.

Q: I am a 48-year-old widow. I used to receive widow's benefits and my three children got survivor's benefits from their deceased father's Social Security record. I remarried awhile back and my benefits stopped. And two of my kids are now off the Social Security rolls because they are over 18.

So, just one child is still receiving survivor's benefits.

I am separated from my second husband and am thinking about getting a divorce. Part of that decision depends on whether or not I can go back on my first husband's Social Security and get widow's benefits again. I asked one Social Security representative, and she told me I can. But I asked another representative who said I have to wait until I'm 60. Can you please help?

A: If your second marriage ends, you will be eligible once again for "mother's benefits" (benefits paid to widows with minor children in their care) IF your youngest child is under age 16. Once he or she turns 16, the child is no longer considered a "minor child" for Social Security purposes, and you would not be eligible for mother's benefits.

If that's the case, then you would have to wait until age 60 to collect regular widow's benefits on your first husband's Social Security record. By the way, that youngest child will continue to receive benefits until he or she turns 18.

Q: I am 64 years old and receive Social Security retirement benefits. My ex-husband recently died at the age of 64. We were married for 27 years before getting a divorce about 10 years ago. Neither of us remarried. He never collected Social Security, although he worked and paid Social Security taxes all his life. He always made a lot more money than I did. Am I eligible for widow's benefits on his record?

A: I think you will be eligible for divorced widow's benefits. But, of course, that opinion is based only on the information you provided. The key things you told me are: 1) that you were married for more than 10 years; 2) that you did not remarry; and 3) that he made more money than you did. Those three factors all point toward your eligibility for divorced widow's benefits.

But you'll have to check with the Social Security Administration to find out if you're actually due any extra benefits. They will also be able to go over the numbers with you. They can help you decide if you should switch to reduced divorced widow's benefits now, or wait until you turn 66 to get full benefits on your ex-husband's record.

To find out more about Tom Margenau and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



7 Comments | Post Comment
My mom died in 2010. She was married for 7 years but never reported the marriage to the social security office. We found a marriage certificate to prove it. However, she and her husband were separated throughout majority of the marriage. Will he still be eligible to receive survivors benefits if he provided proof of marriage or a marriage certificate although they were separated?
Comment: #1
Posted by: Tiesha Williams
Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:50 AM
i was put on ssi at age 40,,(1995), i had paid in enough to draw around 950.00 a month i had 2 children under 18,, and my wife, they put me on a family max of 1000.,, as the years went by and with the annual increases we got up to around 1400.. my oldest son aged out and they split his money between the remaining 3 of us at age 16 they told off my wife and split the money between my son and myself,, at age 18 they took him off and i now draw 1070. which is right around what i should have draw in 1995.. is this the way the family max should have worke or should the money have been given to me
Comment: #2
Posted by: fred hinson
Sun Aug 15, 2010 12:28 PM
when one of two children reach the age of 18 do the survivor benefits recieved by the oldest child roll over to the youngest or do they just stop
Comment: #3
Posted by: Charlene
Tue Sep 14, 2010 9:36 PM
When my first husband passed away, my boys were 3 and 9. The three of us received survivors benefits. When I remarrried, I did not receive benefits but my boys received an increase in the amount they were getting. The increase amounted to the total that the three of us were originally receiving. My oldest is now turning 18. When his benefits stop, will my youngest who is now almost 12 receive an increase?
Comment: #4
Posted by: Lisa Foshee
Fri Feb 11, 2011 11:19 AM
My son father died, he qualify for survivor benefit, the amount is $900.00 per month. Now, there is another child that has been determined as the deceased father other child ( child #2). My question is: will my son and the other child have to split the survivor benefit in half? Will the amount adjust to $450.00 per month?
Comment: #5
Posted by: Wendy
Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:16 PM
My son and I are getting disability benefits of $426 each from my ex-husband. I have been notified that I will no longer get mine due to him turning 16 this year. Does that mean he will get more (my share, and get $852)?
Comment: #6
Posted by: Kaila
Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:18 PM
I'm 44 years old and I just lost my husband I have a 17 year old.daughter that is a junior in high school will I get survivors benefits and will my daughter keep getting her benefits until she graduated?
Comment: #7
Posted by: stacie glick
Fri Dec 26, 2014 9:25 PM
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Tom Margenau
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