Social Security Mother/Father Benefits (for a Surviving Spouse)

You are eligible for mother/father benefits on your deceased spouse’s work record if:

  1. You have not remarried;
  2. You have a child in your care who is a) under 16 or disabled and b) entitled to child’s benefits on your deceased spouse’s work record; and
  3. You have not yet applied for your regular widow/widower benefit (i.e., your surviving spouse benefit).

Mother/Father Benefit Amount

The amount of a mother/father benefit is 75% of your deceased spouse’s “primary insurance amount” (that is, 75% of the monthly retirement benefit that your deceased spouse would have received if he she had been alive at his/her full retirement age and filed for benefits at his/her full retirement age).

Automatic Conversion to Widow(er) Benefits

When you reach your full retirement age, if you are receiving a mother/father benefit at that time, you will automatically be “deemed” to have filed for your widow(er) benefit. And because of eligibility requirement #3 discussed above, that means that your mother/father benefit will terminate at that time.

Reductions to Mother/Father Benefits

While the basic mother/father benefit is 75% of your deceased spouse’s primary insurance amount, there are various factors that could reduce your mother/father benefit.

  • If you are working, the Social Security earnings test could result in your mother/father benefit being partially or fully withheld.
  • If you are receiving a government pension from work that was not covered by Social Security tax, the “government pension offset” will reduce your mother/father benefit by 2/3 of your monthly pension amount.
  • If more than one child is receiving child benefits on your deceased spouse’s work record, the family maximum rule could result in your mother/father benefit being reduced.
  • If you have applied for your own retirement benefit, your mother/father benefit will be reduced (but not below zero) by the amount of your retirement benefit.

Of note: unlike retirement benefits, spousal benefits, and widow(er) benefits, mother/father benefits are not reduced as a result of filing for them prior to your full retirement age.

Retroactive Application for Mother/Father Benefits

When you file for mother/father benefits, you can backdate your application by up to 6 months (but no earlier than your deceased spouse’s date of death), thereby allowing you to receive a lump sum for months for which you were eligible for a benefit but simply had not yet filed for such.

Can I Hit My Maximum Social Security Benefit Before Age 70?

A reader writes in, asking:

“I often hear how smart it is to wait until I turn 70 to begin taking my SS benefit. But I have also read that there is a maximum possible benefit. How can I be sure that I won’t run into that maximum before age 70?”

This is a common misunderstanding of what is meant by a maximum benefit. There are two different maximum benefits that you might read about (more on those below), but, to be clear, neither one gets in the way of you waiting until age 70 to file for your retirement benefit.

That is, there is no rule that stops you from accumulating delayed retirement credits (prior to age 70) due to having run into some maximum. Said yet another way, your own maximum retirement benefit, for a given level of earnings history, will occur if you file at age 70, not prior to age 70.

Family Maximum Benefit

There’s a “family maximum benefit,” which is calculated based on your primary insurance amount (PIA). But the family maximum rules are never relevant unless either a) you’re disabled or b) somebody other than just you and your spouse (e.g., a minor child) would be claiming benefits on your work record.

Also, waiting to claim your benefit will not cause you to run afoul of the family maximum benefit rule. For the purpose of the family maximum benefit rule, you are assumed to be receiving 100% of your PIA, regardless of when you file for your own retirement benefit. (So, for example, if the family maximum benefit on your PIA is 180% of your PIA, the amount “left” for the rest of your family is 80% of your PIA, even if you are receiving more or less than 100% of your PIA due to having filed early or late.)

Maximum Primary Insurance Amount

There’s also a maximum average indexed monthly earnings (AIME) — and therefore a maximum PIA — for a person born in a given year. Essentially this is what your AIME would be if you worked your entire life and earned the maximum amount subject to Social Security tax each year.

Here’s one such example from the SSA website:

“For example, a person who had maximum-taxable earnings in each year since age 22, and who retires at age 62 in 2020, would have an AIME equal to $10,683. Based on this AIME amount and the bend points $960 and $5,785, the PIA would equal $3,142.70.”

Again, this is not relevant to the decision of when to file for benefits.

Your PIA is what it is. And you can receive more or less than your PIA depending on when you file. For example, the person in the example above would receive less than $3,142 if they file before their full retirement age, and they would receive more than $3,142 if they file after their full retirement age.

How Are Social Security Survivor Benefits Calculated?

To understand Social Security benefit calculations, you first need to understand one piece of jargon: “primary insurance amount” (PIA). A person’s primary insurance amount is the amount of their monthly retirement benefit, if they file for that benefit exactly at their full retirement age.

If your spouse has died and you file for a benefit as their survivor, your benefit will depend on:

  • Your deceased spouse’s PIA,
  • Whether your deceased spouse had already filed for his/her retirement benefit (and at what age they did so, if applicable),
  • The age at which your spouse died, and
  • The age at which you file for your benefit as a surviving spouse.

Let’s first assume that you have reached your survivor full retirement age by the time you file for your survivor benefit.

If your spouse had not filed yet for his/her own retirement benefit by the time he/she died, then:

  • If your spouse died prior to his/her full retirement age, your benefit as a surviving spouse will be your deceased spouse’s PIA.
  • If your spouse died after reaching his/her full retirement age, your benefit as a surviving spouse will be whatever he/she would have received as a retirement benefit, if he/she had filed on his/her date of death.

If your spouse had filed for his/her own retirement benefit by the time he/she died, then your benefit as a surviving spouse will be the greater of:

  • The amount your deceased spouse was receiving at the time of his/her death, or
  • 82.5% of your deceased spouse’s PIA.  (In other words, if your spouse filed so early that they were receiving less than 82.5% of their PIA, you would get 82.5% of their PIA.)

Reduction for Early Filing

If you file for a survivor benefit prior to your survivor full retirement age, your benefit as a survivor will be reduced.

Specifically, if you file as early as possible (age 60), then your benefit as a survivor will be 71.5% of what it would have been if you waited until your survivor FRA.

From there, your survivor benefit increases proportionately until you reach your survivor FRA. For example, if you file for your survivor benefit halfway between age 60 and full retirement age, the amount you receive will be 85.75% (i.e., halfway between 71.5% and 100%) of the amount that would have received if you waited until FRA.

Special Situation: Both People File Early

If your deceased spouse had filed for his/her own retirement benefit prior to his/her FRA and you file for your benefit as a survivor prior to your survivor FRA, then the math is a bit more complicated. (The short answer is that you get slightly more than what was indicated above.)

Specifically, your benefit as a survivor would be your deceased spouse’s PIA, but you must reduce that benefit as described above due to the fact that you filed early (e.g., 28.5% reduction if you file ASAP at age 60). Then, the resulting benefit is limited to the greater of:

  • 82.5% of your deceased spouse’s PIA, or
  • The amount your deceased spouse was receiving on the date of his/her death.

Survivor Benefit Together with Your Own Retirement Benefit

If you are “entitled” to your own retirement benefit as well as a benefit as a surviving spouse (i.e., you are eligible for each benefit and have filed for each benefit), then your benefit as a surviving spouse will be reduced by the amount of your own retirement benefit. (In most cases, this simply means that you get the greater of the two benefit amounts.)

How Much Can I Earn While on Social Security Disability?

A reader writes in, asking:

“Can you recommend an book/author that can help me learn about Social Security disability benefits for my adult disabled child? In particular, I would like to know how much he can earn before it impacts what he may receive from my SS retirement benefit.”

The definition of disability for adult disabled child cases is the same as for cases in which a person is receiving a disability benefit on their own work record.

You can find the disability-related chapters of the SSA’s POMS here. (The POMS is essentially the SSA’s comprehensive internal manual.)

To initially qualify as disabled, a person must be unable to engage in “substantial gainful activity.” For 2020, the threshold for substantial gainful activity is $1,260/month (or $2,110/month for a person who is blind).

However, once a person has already qualified as disabled, there is a different (lower) earnings threshold that becomes relevant. If a disabled person’s earnings in a given month exceed a certain threshold ($910 in 2020), it triggers a “trial work period.” A person’s disability benefit will not be terminated due to their earnings during the trial work period. If a person has 9 months of earnings above that threshold ($910 in 2020) during any rolling 60-month window, the trial work period ends, and then the following rules kick in, to determine whether their disability benefit actually gets terminated. (Of note: the 9 months don’t have to be consecutive.)

After a person’s trial work period ends, they aren’t necessarily permanently considered no-longer-disabled. Rather, after the trial work period, the person enters a 36-month “re-entitlement period.” (The rules for this period are sometimes referred to as the “extended period of eligibility” rules.) During this re-entitlement period, the first time that the person’s earnings exceed the substantial gainful activity threshold ($1,260 in 2020), it triggers their “grace period.” This grace period lasts 3 months (the first month with excess earnings and the following two months). During the grace period, the person will continue to receive their benefit, regardless of earnings level. After the 3-month grace period though, for the remainder of the re-entitlement period, the person’s benefit is determined month-by-month. (If their earnings exceed the SGA threshold, they get no benefit. If their earnings are below the threshold, they get a benefit.)

After the 36-month re-entitlement period ends, the person’s benefit is permanently terminated in the first month in which they earn more than the SGA threshold.

Retroactive Applications for Social Security Benefits

When you file an application for any of the following types of Social Security benefits:

  • Retirement benefits,
  • Spousal benefits,
  • Widow(er) benefits,
  • Child benefits,
  • Mother/father benefits, or
  • Dependent parent benefits…

…you have the option of backdating your application by up to 6 months. That is, you can file retroactively, thereby getting a lump sum for those 6 months of benefits and having your benefit calculating going forward as if you had filed 6 months earlier.

Example: You file for your retirement benefit at age 68 and 10 months. You ask for the maximum retroactivity. Result: your monthly benefit will be what it had been if you had filed for it to begin at age 68 and 4 months, and you will receive a lump sum for 6 months of benefits.

Two Important Exceptions

Exception #1: You cannot backdate an application for retirement, spousal, or widow(er) benefits to a month earlier than your full retirement age. For example, if you reach your full retirement age in February of a given year and you file for retirement benefits in April of that year, you can only backdate your application back to February.

Exception #2: If you are filing for a) disability benefits or b) spousal/widow(er)/child benefits based on the work record of somebody who is currently entitled to Social Security disability benefits, you can backdate your application by up to 12 months rather than the normal 6 months. (If it is an application for spousal benefits though, it will still be limited by exception #1 above.)

Avoiding Accidental Retroactive Applications

When you file a Social Security application online, the application asks when you want your benefits to start. Similarly, if you file by phone or in person, the SSA employee with whom you speak is supposed to ask when you want your benefits to start. But there have been cases in which the SSA employee doesn’t ask. Instead, they just start the applicant’s benefit immediately, with the maximum possible retroactivity (i.e., seeking to give the applicant the largest immediate lump sum possible). And, in some cases, that’s not what the applicant actually wanted.

So it’s always important to be clear about exactly when you want your benefit to begin (e.g., “I want my benefit to begin effective October 20xx, at age 69 and 7 months”).

But Didn’t the Rules Change?

Contrary to a common misconception, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (i.e., the law that made a bunch of changes to Social Security several years ago) did not change any of the above rules.

With regard to retroactive benefits, what that law eliminated was the ability to retroactively unsuspend benefits. (You used to be able to file at full retirement age, immediately have your benefits suspended, then at a later date choose to retroactively unsuspend — thereby getting a lump sum for all the months you would have received if you hadn’t suspended. But this retroactive unsuspension is no longer an option.)

How Does the Social Security Earnings Test Work?

If you:

  1. Are younger than full retirement age,
  2. Have filed for a Social Security benefit of some kind, and
  3. Are working…

…then the Social Security earnings test could result in some or all of your benefit being withheld. It could also result in withholding of benefits that anybody else is receiving on your work record (e.g., your spouse’s benefit as your spouse).

Specifically, the Social Security earnings test says that, in any year for which you will be younger than full retirement age throughout the entire year, for every two dollars you make in excess of a certain threshold ($18,240 for 2020), one dollar of your Social Security benefit (or somebody else’s benefit on your work record) will be withheld.

Example: In 2020, Bob is 63 years old and has already filed for his retirement benefit. He earns $40,000 over the course of the year. As a result, the earnings test will cause $10,880 of his benefits to be withheld in 2020. (That is, the excess of $40,000 over $18,240, divided by two.)

Earnings Test in Year of Full Retirement Age

In the year in which you reach your full retirement age, the earnings test works somewhat differently. Specifically:

  • The threshold is higher. (Again, you can find it here.) For 2020, it’s $48,600.
  • Only your earnings prior to the month in which you reach full retirement age will count toward the test.
  • One dollar of benefits is withheld for every three dollars of excess earnings rather than every two dollars of excess earnings.

Example: Jane filed for her retirement benefit in a prior year. Jane reaches her full retirement age in August of 2020. She earns $8,000 each month throughout the year. Because she reaches her full retirement age in August, it is only her earnings from January-July that will count toward the earnings test. So that’s $8,000 x 7 = $56,000. Given the 2020 threshold of $48,600, she has $7,400 of excess earnings. We then divide $7,400 by three, and we see that the earnings test will cause $2,466 of Jane’s retirement benefit to be withheld in 2020.

Earnings Test After Full Retirement Age

In years after the year in which you reach your full retirement age, your earnings will not result in the earnings test withholding any benefits. (However, as we’ll discuss below, if you are receiving a benefit as a spouse, and your spouse is younger than full retirement age, his/her earnings could cause your spousal benefit to be withheld — even if you are older than full retirement age.)

What Counts as Earnings?

Wages, salary, commissions, tips, net earnings from self-employment, and a few other less common forms of income count as earnings for the earnings test. (You can find the full list here.)

Interest, dividends, capital gains, IRA/401(k) distributions, rental income, pensions, and several other types of income do not count as earnings for the earnings test. (You can find the full list here.)

How Does the Actual Withholding Work?

When you file for a Social Security benefit, the SSA will ask you to estimate your earnings for that year. Your earnings test withholding will be based on that estimated amount. Then, once the year is over and your actual earnings amount is known, you settle up with the SSA. (That is, if too little was withheld, you will be required to pay the additional amount that should have been withheld. Conversely, if too much was withheld, the overwitheld amount will be paid back to you.)

Another key point is that the withholding from the earnings test is not applied evenly (pro-rata) throughout the year. Instead, your monthly Social Security benefit is completely withheld until the necessary amount of annual withholding has occurred.

Example: Mary is 64 years old, and she filed for her retirement benefit last year at age 63. Her monthly retirement benefit (prior to considering any withholding) is $1,500. If her earnings for the year are such that $6,000 needs to be withheld, her benefit will be completely withheld from January-April. Then she would receive her normal $1,500 for each month from May-December.

If Mary’s earnings were slightly higher and the earnings test said that $6,300 needed to be withheld, then her benefit would be completely withheld from January-May (resulting in $7,500 being withheld). Then, at the beginning of the following year, she would receive back the $1,200 of overwithholding.

How Does the Earnings Test Affect Spousal (and Child) Benefits?

As a result of your earnings, the earnings test can result in the withholding of:

  • Any benefit you are receiving, and
  • Any benefit that somebody else is receiving on your work record (regardless of their age).

Example: Lynn and John are married. They have each filed for their own retirement benefits. In addition, because Lynn’s earnings history is considerably higher than John’s, John has filed for his benefit as Lynn’s spouse.

If Lynn is younger than full retirement age, her earnings could result in her retirement benefit and John’s benefit as her spouse being withheld (even if John has reached his FRA). Lynn’s earnings cannot, however, result in John’s own retirement benefit being withheld.

If John is younger than full retirement age, his earnings could result in his retirement benefit and his benefit as Lynn’s spouse being withheld. His earnings cannot, however, result in Lynn’s retirement benefit being withheld.

To reiterate, if you are younger than FRA, your own earnings can cause any benefit that you are receiving (e.g., retirement, spousal, survivor) to be withheld. And, if you are younger than FRA, your own earnings can result in somebody else’s benefit as your spouse (or child) being withheld (even if that person has reached their FRA). But your own earnings cannot result in anybody else’s own retirement benefit being withheld.

Do You Get the Withheld Benefits Back at Some Point?

On the SSA website, you will find the following statement:

“It is important to note that any benefits withheld while you continue to work are not ‘lost’. Once you reach [full retirement age], your monthly benefit will be increased permanently to account for the months in which benefits were withheld.”

Many people misinterpret this to mean that they will receive a lump sum when they reach FRA, to repay any benefits that had been withheld. To be clear, that is not what happens.

Instead, when you reach FRA, your benefit is recalculated, and any reduction that had previously been applied due to having filed early will now be reduced (yes, the reduction is reduced) based on how many months of benefits were withheld.

Example: You originally filed for your retirement benefit 30 months prior to your full retirement age, but the earnings test resulted in your benefit being withheld for 13 months. Effective as of your FRA, your benefit will be recalculated as if you had only filed 17 months early rather than 30 months early.

The “Grace Year” Rule

According to the “grace year” rule, the earnings test will not result in withholding of benefits for any non-service months in a grace year.

A non-service month is a month in which you earn less than 1/12 of the normal earnings test annual threshold amount (so, $1,520 for 2020) or in which you do not perform “substantial services” for your business if you are self-employed.

And your grace year is the first year in which you have a non-service month after having filed for a retirement/spousal/survivor benefit.

Example: Monica retires in June of 2020 at age 64, and she files for her retirement benefit to begin in the following month (July). By the time of her retirement, she had already earned $70,000 for the year. If Monica earns less than $1,520 in each of the following months (i.e., July-December), the earnings test will not cause any of her benefits to be withheld, even though she earned far beyond the annual threshold amount for the year.

A key point about the grace year rule, however, is that it does not prevent withholding of somebody else’s benefit on your work record.

For example, in the example above, if Monica were married and her husband were receiving a spousal benefit on Monica’s work record, her husband’s spousal benefit could still be withheld July-December due to Monica’s annual excess earnings, despite those months being non-service months in Monica’s “grace year.”

What is a Social Security Primary Insurance Amount (PIA)?

A person’s primary insurance amount (PIA) is the amount of their monthly retirement benefit, if they file for that benefit exactly at their full retirement age.

If you file for your retirement benefit prior to your full retirement age, your monthly retirement benefit will be less than your primary insurance amount.

If you file for your retirement benefit after reaching your full retirement age, your monthly retirement benefit will be greater than your primary insurance amount.

You can find more details about the calculation of monthly retirement benefits here.

Social Security Planning for a Couple with Similar Earnings History

A reader writes in, asking:

In giving advice to a married couple, you frequently differentiate what the higher-earning-record spouse should do and what the lower-earning-record spouse should do. I’ve not seen you mention what a couple should do where both spouses have nearly identical earning records. How should a married couple apply the typical high-earner/low-earner advice?

  1. Even if there’s only a one dollar difference in their earning records, still follow the higher-earning-record/lower-earning record recommendation that you describe?
  2. Both spouses should follow the typical advice for the higher-earning-record-spouse?
  3. Both spouses should follow the typical advice for a single person?
  4. Or something else?

Or there is no rule of thumb for that situation?

In short, it still makes sense to follow the same general plan as for other couples in which:

  1. You begin the analysis with one spouse filing at 70 and the other filing at 62 (or 62 and 1 month if their DoB is not the first or second of the month),
  2. Then you move the “age 62” date later if you’re concerned about longevity risk, or
  3. You move the “age 70” date earlier if you need the cash flow.

But which spouse should be the one to file early, and which should be the one to file late? Basically, we want to know whose benefit at age 70 would be larger. So if their respective earnings histories are similar, the next thing to look at is the spouses’ respective full retirement ages. For example if the wife has a full retirement age of 66 and the husband has a full retirement age of 67, it’s more advantageous for the wife to delay, because her benefit at age 70 would be 132% of her “primary insurance amount” (because 70 is 48 months beyond her FRA), while his benefit at age 70 would only be 124% of his PIA (because 70 is only 36 months beyond his FRA).

If they have nearly identical PIAs as well as identical FRAs, then the one in better health should be the one to delay (because they’re the one most likely to make it to age 70, to allow the benefit to max out).

If they have identical PIAs, identical FRAs, and roughly identical life expectancies, then it probably doesn’t matter very much which spouse files earlier and which spouse files later.

Of note, the above analysis assumes there are no additional complicating factors.

One complicating factor that would be fairly common is the earnings test. If one spouse plans to work beyond age 62 (and therefore would have their benefit subject to withholding via the earnings test), then that spouse should likely not file any earlier than the date on which they quit work — or in some cases January of the year in which they reach FRA. (The specifics would depend on their level of earnings.)

For reference, all of these factors (and several others) are accounted for by the Open Social Security calculator. The above is just my attempt to explain the general decision making process.

Why Delaying Social Security Doesn’t Provide an 8% Return

One of the most commonly given reasons for delaying Social Security is that doing so “provides you an 8% return.” But that’s just not true. It doesn’t.

Firstly, the increase in benefits from delaying is not 8% for most years. By delaying from 62 to 70, you get about 76-77% more per month than you would get if you started your benefit at age 62. (The exact percentage depends on whether your FRA is 66, 67, or somewhere in between.) That works out to an average annual increase of about 7.4%. For the exact details of how your filing age affects your retirement benefit, see here.

The second and more important issue though is that this figure is not a return. To know the actual return you would get from delaying Social Security, we’d have to know how long you will live (and how long your spouse will live, if you’re married).

To explain, consider this hypothetical example: you give me $100 today, and I give you $8 one year from now.

What return did you get? It’s not 8%. To have earned an 8% return you would have had to go from $100 to $108 over that year. Instead, you went from $100 to $8. That’s a -92% return.

Now, imagine instead that you give me $100 right now, and I give you $8 one year from now and another $8 the year after that. Now you’ve gone from $100 to $16. Still not good, but quite a bit better. A higher rate of return.

Point being: You need to know how long you will collect this income in order to calculate a rate of return.

With regard to delaying Social Security, we can calculate an expected return based on life expectancies. But that figure turns out to be nowhere near 8% in most cases. For an average unmarried male, the expected return from waiting to file for Social Security works out to about 1.8% above inflation. For an average unmarried female, it’s about 3% above inflation. For a married person, it depends on the difference in ages between the two spouses as well as the difference in primary insurance amounts. (In short, it’s usually significantly higher for the higher earner in the couple and lower for the lower earner in the couple.)

Still, a majority of people (as in, “more than 50%” — not “almost everybody”) will be well served by waiting. Specifically, the higher earner in married couples should usually wait all the way until 70. Most unmarried people will want to wait (though not necessarily all the way until 70). And some lower earners in married couples will want to wait — though it’s pretty uncommon for age 70 to be the ideal choice there.

How Do Child-in-Care Spousal Social Security Benefits Work?

In order to qualify for child-in-care spousal benefits:

  1. Your spouse must be collecting a retirement or disability benefit, and
  2. You must have in your care a child who is under age 16 (or disabled) and who is receiving child benefits on the work record of your spouse.

Like regular spousal benefits, the amount of a child-in-care spousal benefit is 50% of your spouse’s “primary insurance amount” (PIA) — that is, 50% of the monthly retirement benefit that they would get if they claimed their retirement benefit exactly at their full retirement age.

Also like regular spousal benefits, your child-in-care spousal benefit will be reduced if you are simultaneously receiving a retirement benefit. (Specifically, it will be reduced by the larger of your own retirement benefit or your primary insurance amount.)

Unlike regular spousal benefits, you do not have to be age 62 in order to receive child-in-care spousal benefits. In fact, there is no minimum age at all.

Also unlike regular spousal benefits, child-in-care spousal benefits are not reduced for early entitlement. (For example, if a person files for child-in-care spousal benefits 3 years prior to their full retirement age, they’d still get the full amount, whereas a person filing for regular spousal benefits 3 years prior to full retirement age would only get 75% of the full amount.)

Also unlike regular spousal benefits, filing for child-in-care spousal benefits cannot cause a “deemed filing” for retirement benefits. This opens up some strategies for receiving spousal benefits while allowing your own retirement benefit to continue growing.

Example: Bob and Jane are both age 62. Their daughter, Ellen, is disabled and lives with them. Bob has a higher earnings history than Jane. A strategy that is available to them is as follows:

  • At age 62, Jane files for retirement benefits. Ellen files at that time for child benefits on Jane’s work record. Bob files for child-in-care spousal benefits. (This will be a restricted application — for just spousal benefits, not his own retirement benefit.)
  • When he reaches age 70, Bob files for his retirement benefit, at which point his child-in-care spousal benefit ends. Ellen files for child benefits on Bob’s work record so that she can receive a larger child’s benefit. If applicable, Jane also files at this time for spousal benefits on Bob’s work record.

When you lose eligibility for child-in-care spousal benefits (i.e., when your youngest child reaches age 16, if you have no disabled children), what happens depends on your age at the time.

If you are younger than full retirement age when your youngest child reaches age 16, your child-in-care spousal benefit will be suspended. If you are at least age 62 (or when you do reach age 62), you have the option to begin regular spousal benefits by filing Form SSA-25. If you do so, your benefit will be reduced for early filing. When you file Form SSA-25, the normal deemed filing rules will kick in. (That is, you will automatically be deemed to have filed for your own retirement benefit as well, if you had not already done so.) If you don’t file Form SSA-25, your regular spousal benefit will still begin automatically upon reaching full retirement age, and the normal deemed filing rules will apply at that time.

If you have reached your full retirement age by the time your youngest child reaches age 16, your child-in-care spousal benefit will simply become a regular spousal benefit (i.e., will continue at the same amount). And the normal deemed filing rules will apply at that time.

Finally, one important point of note whenever there is a child receiving child’s benefits is that the total household benefit will be subject to the family maximum rules (or combined family maximum rules, if both spouses are receiving their own retirement benefits).