Social Security & You: Family Maximum Doesn’t Apply to Couples | Business News


I regularly receive questions from prospective retirees who have heard about a “family maximum” that applies to Social Security benefits, and they fear that rule will reduce the benefits they owe as a couple.

So, here’s the message of this column: The maximum family rules do not apply to a man and woman who receive Social Security benefits themselves. These maximum rules only apply when children are involved. These are usually cases in which children receive benefits into the account of a deceased parent. Or it could mean that benefits are limited to families of someone receiving disability benefits. But it can also incidentally apply to pensioners who still have minor children at home. When this happens, it is often because a retiree has an adult child who has been disabled since birth.

But again, the focus of today’s column is the scenario of a husband and wife with no minor or disabled adult children at home.

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Q: I wait until age 70 to take my Social Security so I get 132% of my Social Security benefit. Then my wife, who has been a housewife all her life, will submit my file and she will receive 50% of my benefit. So together we get 182% of my Social Security benefit. Our accountant said that will be a problem because Social Security rules set the family maximum somewhere between 150% and 188% of my benefit percentage. The actual percentage depends on factors I don’t quite understand. The accountant sent me this clipping from what he said is Social Security Regulations.


“The family maximum formula for old-age and survivors’ insurance (OASI) benefits is based on a beneficiary’s primary insurance amount (PIA). The PIA is the base amount of a beneficiary’s Social Security benefit before adjustments for retirement age, income, and other factors. SSA calculates the family maximum with a formula. Ultimately, that formula yields a maximum for each family that is between 150% and 188% of the basic social security benefit, or PIA.”

A: Do not worry. You’ll find that the rulebook section your accountant sent you refers to a “primary insurance amount,” which is essentially your full retirement age. That amount can never exceed 100%. You get a higher monthly benefit amount (up to 32% more) because you delay applying for Social Security until age 70. But your PIA will remain at that 100% rate.

Your wife will receive 50% interest. So the maximum that a man and a dependent woman can get in basic (PIA) combined benefits is 150%. (His PIA rate of 100% and her spouse’s alimony of 50%.) And that 150% rate is no higher than the lowest maximum family rate (which is 150%).

If you have a Social Security question, Tom Margenau has a book with all the answers. It’s called ‘Social Security: Simple and Smart’. You can find the book at Or search for it on Amazon or other bookstores. Visit to learn more about him, read past columns and see features from other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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