Discover the New Learn more



Happy African American couple
AARP Auto Buying Program

Most Popular


Free Fun!

AARP Games - Play Now!


Best Employers for Workers Over 50

See the latest winners of this AARP recognition program.

Employer Resource Center

Attract and retain top talent in a changing workforce.

Social Security Mailbox

Understanding the 'Family Maximum'

Can a layoff get you Social Security before age 62?

En español | Q. At age 70, my husband's monthly benefit will be $1,600. One year later, when I turn 70, my benefit will be $2,400. Can we each collect our own benefit amount, for a total of $4,000, or is there a maximum that will limit our combined benefit?

See also: Top 25 Social Security questions.

A. While there is a "family maximum," it only applies when benefits are being paid to several people on one work record. For example, if your husband and, say, two minor children were to get benefits on his record, there would be a limit on how much Social Security would pay all of them together. Because you and your husband each paid into the system during your working lives, the limit does not apply.

Q. At what age should I start Social Security retirement benefits in order to collect the highest total amount over the course of my lifetime?

A. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), it doesn't matter — on average. If you live to the average life expectancy that SSA calculates for people your age, you will receive roughly the same amount in total lifetime benefits whether you start receiving at age 62, at full retirement age, at age 70 or any age in between.

However, monthly benefit amounts can differ substantially. Basically, you can get lower monthly payments for a longer period of time or higher monthly payments over a shorter period of time. For more information, see the Social Security Administration fact sheet on when to begin receiving retirement benefits.

Q. Can you draw Social Security before the age of 62 because you were laid off from your job?

A. No. The earliest age at which you can receive Social Security retirement benefits is 62. If you want your benefits to begin as soon as you turn that age, call Social Security three months before your birthday to announce your intent. The number is 1-800-772-1213.

Stan Hinden, a former columnist for the Washington Post, wrote How to Retire Happy: The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire. Have a question for the Social Security Mailbox? Check out the archive. If you don't find your answer there, send a query.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


Jobs You Might Like

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Member Benefits Cricket Wireless Cellular

Members can save $20 on wireless devices from Cricket. Conditions apply.

membership adt

Small business owners save 20% on new installation of any new ADT security system.

UPS Store membership discount aarp benefits

Members save 15% on eligible products/services and 5% on UPS shipping at The UPS Store®.

Member Benefits

Renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points


Advance your skills. Transform your career.

Explore your learning possibilities.