Social Security Benefits for Children of Retired Persons

by Karen Farnen
Child's benefits can help build your savings for the future.

If you're the dependent child of a retired person, you may be able to collect Social Security benefits on the work record of your retired relative. Your parent, or in some cases grandparent, must claim her own retirement benefits, which she can do as early as 62. Then, if you meet the requirements of the Social Security Administration, you can receive your own payment every month until you no longer qualify.

Qualifying

You must be the biological child, stepchild, adopted child or dependent grandchild of a Social Security retirement recipient to qualify for child's benefits. You must be less than 18 years of age in most cases. However, you also qualify at age 18 or 19 if you're a full-time student in grade 12 or below. You can't receive benefits if you're already in college. As another exception, you qualify if you're older than 18 and disabled, but only if the disability began before the age of 22. You don't qualify if you're married, regardless of age, and benefits normally cease at age 18, unless you're in high school or disabled.

Amount

As a child, you qualify for one-half of the full retirement benefit of your retired parent or grandparent. However, Social Security limits the total monthly benefit your family can receive based on one retiree's work record. This limit depends on the retiree's benefit amount and on how many family members collect on that account. In general, the limit is between 150 and 180 percent of the retiree's full benefit. For example, if one of your parents collects retirement benefits and the other collects spousal benefits on the same account, Social Security imposes the family limit when you claim child's benefits. However, a divorced spouse collecting on your parent's record won't reduce your family's benefits.

Work

If you earn money from work while collecting child's benefits, Social Security's earnings limits apply. These limits are the same ones that apply if your retired parent works while collecting retirement benefits, according to the Social Security Administration. The amount of the reduction depends on your earnings, and you can calculate it using the earnings test calculator on the Social Security website. Your paycheck doesn't affect the benefit of any other family member collecting on the same work record.

Applying

You can apply for child's Social Security benefits in person at a Social Security office or by phone at 800-772-1213. Call 800-325-0778 if you're hearing-impaired. You'll need to provide the name and Social Security number of your retired parent, your own name, birth date, Social Security number and citizenship status. Additional documentation, such as your birth certificate, tax returns or adoption papers, may be requested. Also provide your bank account numbers to set up direct deposit of the benefit payments.

Photo Credits

  • Noel Hendrickson/Photodisc/Getty Images