Spousal child-in-care benefits

Q: I recently reached age 62 and start early Social Security in January. I will also receive dependent benefits for our 17-year-old son who is in high school and lives at home. Can my wife receive Social Security on my record now because our son will? She is in her 50’s and working.

A: Based on the information provided, the answer here is no but the question helps showcase a type of spousal benefit that many people are not aware of.

When discussing potential Social Security spousal benefits to either husband or wife, most people think only of a spouse also at least early retirement age of 62. Another variation of spousal benefits is possible to your spouse of any age when a child is receiving Social Security through your work record.

Potential spousal benefits because children are receiving benefits are mentioned in the publication Benefits for Children and in the Retirement Benefits booklet (page 10) which states “However, if your spouse is taking care of a child who is under age 16, or disabled, and gets Social Security benefits on your record, your spouse gets full benefits, regardless of age.”

Since this type of spousal benefit is possible because there is an eligible child under the age of 16 or disabled receiving benefits, the age of the spouse is not a factor for eligibility or amount.

When working full time, many parents who might otherwise be entitled to this type of spousal benefit choose not to file for it. This is because the annual earnings test applies to them and expected earnings could negate any SSA potentially payable. Earnings test amounts for 2016 will be the same as in 2015.

Note that the child receiving benefits must be under age 16 or eligible because of disability. Since the child referred to in the above question is already age 17 with no mention of being disabled, benefits to him would not make his mother eligible for benefits.

When payable, amounts for this benefit are based on the retiree’s full retirement age (FRA) amount, not his or her actual monthly Social Security amount. Child and spouse each receive the same monthly amount of up to one-half of the retiree’s FRA amount. If payable, these spousal benefits are not reduced for age. Estimate your FRA amount with the Retirement Estimator tool in the SSA Retirement Planner or by viewing your SSA Statement through your my Social Security account.

Although this question referred to Social Security retirement benefits, the same type of spousal benefit is available if a worker receives Social Security disability benefits, with an eligible child as above.

If the worker is deceased, Social Security survivors benefits could be payable to a widow or widower of any age if an eligible child younger than age 16 or disabled received benefits.

Another important item is related to this original question. If you receive Social Security benefits for someone else, you are that person’s representative payee and responsible for accounting to Social Security about how benefits are used. As payee, the father in this question is responsible for making any necessary reports concerning his son’s eligibility to Social Security. A booklet about being a representative payee is here.



SSA Disability benefits in your state & more

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.  While a time to celebrate the contributions of America’s workers with disabilities, this is also a good time to remind you that disability is unpredictable and can happen to anyone at any age. Fifty-six million Americans, or 1-in-5, live with disabilities.

As of December 2014, benefits to disabled workers and their eligible family members accounted for about 18.5 percent of Social Security benefits. At that time, the number of disabled workers and their eligible family members receiving Social Security disability in states near me were: North Dakota, 16,737; Minnesota, 155,061;  South Dakota , 23,214; and in Montana, 32,976.

Social Security disability benefit information for each state is here.  Data is for each Congressional District, as of December 2014, with the number of disabled workers and family members receiving monthly Social Security Disability Insurance plus the amounts of those benefits.


Disability is something many Americans, especially younger people, think can only affect the lives of other people. A fact for 20-year-olds, insured for benefits by working, is that more than 1-in-4 of them becomes disabled before reaching retirement age and may need Social Security disability benefits as a critical source of financial support when they need it most.

At the beginning of 2015, Social Security paid an average monthly disability benefit of $1,165. That is barely enough to keep a beneficiary above the 2014 poverty level ($11,670 annually). For many beneficiaries, their monthly disability payment represents most of their income. Even these modest payments can make a huge difference in the lives of people who can no longer work. They allow people to meet basic needs and the needs of their families. Learn more in the Faces and Facts of Disability section at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityfacts/.

Are younger than retirement age? Do you have children dependent on you? If struck by a severe illness or injury, what would be the potential amount of Social Security disability benefits payable to you and eligible family members?

Obtain an estimate by creating your personal, pin and password secured, my Social Security account. Estimated monthly disability amounts are on your Social Security Statement. Use them with your other family financial planning.


Will marriage change my Social Security?

Q: Will marriage change my Social Security benefits?

A: Remember that these articles provide general information and the answer to such a broad question varies with the type of Social Security benefits received. To learn about your actual benefits, contact Social Security and have a representative check your record.

Marriage will not change Social Security retirement or disability benefits from your own work record because they are based largely on your personal work history over many years and age when starting retirement or becoming disabled. Amounts received by husband or wife through their personal work records do not affect what the other receives.

Do you receive Social Security benefits as a divorced spouse? If a divorced spouse remarries, he or she generally cannot collect benefits on the record of the former spouse unless the later marriage ends.

If you receive Social Security survivors benefits as a widow or widower, your age at remarriage makes a difference in the answer. Widow or widowers of many ages receive Social Security survivor benefits. In general, if you remarry after you reach age 60 (age 50 if disabled), remarriage will not affect your eligibility for survivors benefits. For example, remarriage could end Social Security survivors benefits to a widow at age 40 but not to the same person at age 61. Social Security benefits to a surviving divorced spouse follow this age difference too.

Children can receive Social Security benefits through the work record of a parent. With rare exception, these Social Security benefits end if the child marries.

In addition to Social Security retirement, survivors and disability benefits, the Social Security Administration is also responsible for the very different, need based, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Since household income is used to compute SSI amounts, marriage could change monthly amounts.

Bad things only happen to other people

Of course you have heard the saying “Bad things only happen to other people.” However, we are all “other people” to everyone else.

This brings me to the reminder that Social Security is much more than retirement. Nationally, about 10 percent of SSA monthly benefits go to survivors of all ages due to a death in the family and about 19 percent go to disabled workers and their families.

You can obtain both survivor and disability estimates on your record by creating a personal, pin and password protected, my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount/ and viewing your Social Security Statement.

Hoping that you never need this information is different from planning in case you, or your family, do.

Learn more about Social Security disability and survivors benefits now. Make that information part of your family financial planning.

Then you can tell other people about them.

Social Security benefits by state and county

The annual publication “OASDI Beneficiaries by State and County” was recently released with information as of December 2014. OASDI is the Social Security retirement, survivors and disability benefits.

From the preface:

This annual publication focuses on the Social Security beneficiary population—people receiving Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) benefits—at the local level. It presents basic program data on the number and type of beneficiaries and the amount of benefits paid in each state and county. It also shows the numbers of men and women aged 65 or older receiving benefits. … “ 

As of December 2014, approximately 18.5 percent of the United States population received a monthly Social Security benefit with about 91 percent of people aged 65 or older receiving benefits.

How many people receive Social Security benefits in your state?

In your county?

How much money does that involve?

Find out here. For a specific state and county as of December 2014, click on the state information. Then scroll down to Table 4 to seen the number of beneficiaries in that state, with individual county data. Scroll down to Table 5 for the amount of benefits involved. Note that amounts are shown in thousands of dollars. 2014-SSA-state&county

The start of Social Security disability benefits

The original Social Security disability benefits did not provide monthly payments.

As signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Social Security Amendments of 1954, originally disability benefits provided for a “freeze” to a person’s record during the years when they were unable to work. This was to help prevent periods of disability from reducing or wiping out retirement and survivor benefits due to reduced earnings.

On August 1, 1956, the Social Security Act was amended to provide monthly cash benefits to permanently and totally disabled workers aged 50-64 and to pay child’s benefits to disabled children aged 18 or over of retired or deceased workers, if their disability began before age 18.

More changes came later.

Learn about today’s Social Security disability program here.



Popular baby names of 2014 by state

Following up my earlier post about the popular baby names of 2014, the Social Security Administration has provided the most popular 2014 baby names by individual state.  You can look up the top 100 names for your state here.

In addition to each state’s top baby names, Social Security’s website has a list of the 1,000 most popular boys’ and girls’ names for 2014 and offers lists of baby names for each year since 1880.

Different spellings of similar names are not combined. For example, the names Caitlin, Caitlyn, Kaitlin, Kaitlyn, Kaitlynn, Katelyn, and Katelynn are considered separate names and each has its own rank.

The birth of a child is a special time for families. While having fun with the baby names list, Social Security Acting Commissioner Colvin encourages everyone to visit the agency’s website and create a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov.

For estimates and to see your work record, my Social Security is a personalized online account that you can use beginning in your working years and continuing throughout the time your receive Social Security benefits.

Nationally for 2014, the 10 most popular male and female names are:


For states in my immediate area, here are the top 10 male and female baby names of 2014. See the complete list of 100 names for each state here.






Popular Baby Names for 2014 & more

Here is the Social Security press release announcing the most popular baby names of 2014 along with other information.

Noah and Emma Top Social Security’s List of Most Popular Baby Names for 2014

Agency Adds to Its Family with New Blog


Emma and Noah are America’s most popular baby names for 2014. Emma returns to the top spot she held in 2008 and hangs out in first place with Noah. There are a few new names in the top 10 this year—James (a former #1 from the ‘40s and ‘50s) on the blue side and Charlotte on the pink side, her first time ever in the top 10. Makes you wonder if the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge got a sneak peak at the list, since naming their baby girl Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte (which lands at #10) Elizabeth (which fell from the top 10 to #14) Diana (#297) of Cambridge. Social Security has a new addition this year too, Social Security Matters, the agency’s newborn interactive blog located at http://blog.socialsecurity.gov.

Here are the top 10 boys and girls names for 2014:

Boys: 1.) Noah Girls: 1.) Emma
2.) Liam 2.) Olivia
3.) Mason 3.) Sophia
4.) Jacob 4.) Isabella
5.) William 5.) Ava
6.) Ethan 6.) Mia
7.) Michael 7.) Emily
8.) Alexander 8.) Abigail
9.) James 9.) Madison
10.) Daniel 10.) Charlotte

For all the top baby names of 2014, go to Social Security’s website, www.socialsecurity.gov/oact/babynames/.

Social Security Matters, the agency’s new bundle of joy, launches as we celebrate 80 years of serving the American public, and is an addition to our communications family where people can find information on retirement, disability, Supplemental Security Income, online services, and much more. It also is a place where the public can engage in conversations with the agency about what matters most. The blog encourages discussion and offers important solutions. Much like being a new parent, making benefit decisions can be overwhelming. The blog is the latest in a long line of tools Social Security offers to help educate the public about their benefits and how to access agency services.

The birth of a child is a special time for families. While having fun with the baby names list, Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin encourages everyone to visit the agency’s website and create a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount/.

my Social Security is a personalized online account that people can use beginning in their working years and continuing throughout the time they receive Social Security benefits. Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries can have instant access to their benefit verification letter, payment history, and complete earnings record by establishing a my Social Security account. Beneficiaries also can change their address, start or change direct deposit information, and print a replacement SSA-1099 online.

Individuals age 18 and older who are not receiving benefits can also sign up for a my Social Security account to get their personalized online Social Security Statement. The online Statement provides workers with secure and convenient access to their Social Security earnings and benefit information, and estimates of future benefits they can use to plan for their retirement.

The agency began compiling the baby name list in 1997, with names dating to back to 1880. At the time of a child’s birth, parents supply the name to the agency when applying for a child’s Social Security card, thus making Social Security America’s source for the most popular baby names.

Each year, the list reveals the effect of pop-culture on naming trends. This year’s winners for biggest jump in popularity in the Top 1,000 are Aranza and Bode.

Aranza jumped an amazing 3,625 spots on the girls’ side to number 607, from number 4,232 in 2013. The Latin soap opera “Por siempre mi amor” was aired on Univision from 2013 to 2015. The show featured a young lead character named Aranza, and obviously had its effect on naming trends last year.

Bode raced ahead 645 spots, from number 1,428 in 2013 to number 783 in 2014. This might have had something to do with the Winter Olympics in early 2014, where Bode Miller continued his outstanding alpine skiing career by collecting his sixth Olympic medal. Not only is he the most successful male American alpine skier of all time, he is considered by many to be an American hero.

The second fastest riser for boys was Axl, a nod to both rock legend Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses and Axl Jack Duhamel, son of Stacy Ann “Fergie” Ferguson and Josh Duhamel. For girls, Montserrat, the lead character in a very popular Latin soap opera, was number two, joined by another Monserrat (spelled just one letter differently) at number three.

Popular baby names by state will be available at www.socialsecurity.gov/oact/babynames/ on May 14.


Average Social Security and SSI amounts in February 2015

For February 2015, following are three easily understood tables providing Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) information. These tables are online here.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a separate, low-income program for the aged over 65, disabled or blind children, and disabled or blind adults that is administered by the Social Security Administration. Since SSI is completely different from Social Security, a person meeting the individual rules for each could become eligible for both programs. Income from Social Security reduces SSI amounts.

Learn more about Social Security and SSI at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Table 1 shows the number of people, in thousands, receiving Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) divided by Social Security only, SSI only, and people receiving both.

The “notes” in table 1 explain the difference in total Social Security beneficiaries shown between table 1 and table 2.

2015-02 table 1

Table 2 shows Social Security benefit information for February 2015, separated by number of beneficiaries receiving specific types of benefits and the average dollar amount of those benefits. The number of beneficiaries is again shown in the thousands, with total benefits shown in the millions and average amounts in dollars.

Social Security was never intended to provide full retirement income and this table emphasizes that fact. In February 2015, the average SSA retirement benefit, for the retiree only and excluding any family benefits, was $1,331.44.

2015-02 table 2

Table 3 shows Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit information for February 2015, separated by number of recipients receiving specific types of benefits and the average dollar amount of those benefits.  As above, the number of recipients are shown in the thousands, total benefits shown in the millions and average amounts in dollars.

In February 2015, the average SSI amount was $539.61. The 2015 maximum payable to an eligible individual is $733 per month. This maximum is reduced by other income, including Social Security benefits.

2015-02 table 3

These tables are online here.