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Can my children get benefits on my Social Security when I retire?

Yes. Your child (and, in some cases, your stepchild, grandchild or step-grandchild) is entitled to benefits on your earnings record as a dependent if he or she is unmarried and: 

  • under 18 years of age; 
  • 18 or (in some cases) 19 and still attending high school full time;
  • or disabled, and the disability started before the child turned 22. 

The benefit amount can be up to half of the parent’s primary insurance amount (his or her monthly benefit at full retirement age) per child, although there is a cap on the amount of benefits Social Security will pay to a family based on a single family member’s earnings record. 

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The family maximum, as it is called, is calculated by a complicated formula that produces a monthly payment of 150 percent to 188 percent of the relevant wage earner’s primary insurance amount. If the sum of the benefits to which family members are entitled exceeds the cap, some of the individual payments are reduced.

You’ll find more information in the Social Security publication “Benefits for Children.”

Keep in mind

  • If a child beneficiary is working, the usual earnings limit applies. Social Security will deduct $1 in benefits for every $2 earned over the annual cap, which in 2023 is $21,240. 
  • Once a child beneficiary marries, the dependent benefits usually end. There are some exceptions for what Social Security calls “adult child beneficiaries,” who can continue receiving benefits on a parent’s record if they became disabled before turning 22.

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