What Is the Maximum for Social Security Benefits?

Although government benefits are paid to many types of workers, the Social Security Administration (SSA) wouldn’t be able to help anyone if there weren’t some restrictions on how much beneficiaries can obtain. The SSA allows people to obtain up to a certain amount each month in retirement benefits, family benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Maximum Benefits for Families

When multiple family members receive Social Security benefits on one worker’s record, there is a limit to how much that family can obtain. Usually, the total amount a family receives from Social Security benefits is between 150 and 180 percent of the worker’s base benefit. If multiple beneficiaries will cause that number to exceed 180 percent, everyone’s benefit (except the worker’s) will be reduced to keep it under the maximum.

Maximum Benefits for Retired Workers

The maximum retirement benefit you can receive depends on the age at which you retire. According to the Social Security Administration, a worker retiring at age 66 in 2011 (full retirement age) would receive no more than $2,366 a month. The SSA bases this number on your earnings at the maximum taxable amount for every year you work after age 21. Your retirement benefit amount is based on your salary during working years — a higher salary means a higher benefit. Although Social Security requires you to have a certain number of work credits to qualify for benefits, having more credits won’t increase your benefit amount. A higher salary, however, will.

Maximizing Your Retirement Benefit

Unlike other Social Security benefits, monthly retirement benefits will increase if you wait longer to receive them. The earliest you can receive retirement benefits is age 62, but if you begin receiving benefits at that age you will receive a reduced monthly benefit. Your “maximum” monthly benefit is what you receive at full retirement age, which is 65, 66 or 67, depending on the year you were born. However, you can receive delayed retirement credits if you wait until age 70 to collect retirement, which means your monthly benefit will be even higher if you wait until then. However, there is no additional increase in your benefit if you wait beyond age 70.

Supplemental Security Income

To qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), your income and resources must fall below a certain amount as determined by your state. An individual must have no more than $2,000 in resources to qualify, and a couple must have no more than $3,000 in resources. The maximum income to qualify, however, varies depending on your state. To find out what the income cap is in your state, call the SSA at 800-772-1213. The monthly maximum benefit amounts for SSI in 2011 are $674 a month for an individual and $1,011 for a couple.