Social Security: Will the Family Maximum Reduce My Benefit?

Social Security puts a maximum on total family benefits, but there are smart ways to boost your monthly checks.

Jun 2, 2014 at 5:05PM

Social Security provides for both you and your family members, but there's a maximum that Social Security will pay based on your work history. To maximize your total benefits, it's important to coordinate and be aware of the family maximum.

In this installment of our Social Security Q&A series, Dan Caplinger, The Motley Fool's director of investment planning, answers a question from a reader who has children who qualify for family benefits and wants to know how the family maximum works. Dan notes that children can indeed qualify for Social Security benefits if they're under age 18 or if they're full-time students and either 18 or 19. In addition, disabled children are eligible with no age limit. But Dan points out that the family maximum is usually about 150% to 180% of your retirement benefit, making it difficult if you, a spouse, and several children are all trying to take Social Security benefits based on your work history. Dan suggests instead looking at whether a spouse can take benefits based on the spouse's own work history, leaving more available for the benefits collected on behalf of the children.

How to get even more income during retirement
Social Security plays a key role in your financial security, but it's not the only way to boost your retirement income. In our brand-new free report, our retirement experts give their insight on a simple strategy to take advantage of a little-known IRS rule that can help ensure a more comfortable retirement for you and your family. Click here to get your copy today.

Have general questions about Social Security? Email them to, and they might be the subject of a future video!

Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned, and neither does The Motley Fool. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

A Financial Plan on an Index Card

Keeping it simple.

Aug 7, 2015 at 11:26AM

Two years ago, University of Chicago professor Harold Pollack wrote his entire financial plan on an index card.

It blew up. People loved the idea. Financial advice is often intentionally complicated. Obscurity lets advisors charge higher fees. But the most important parts are painfully simple. Here's how Pollack put it:

The card came out of chat I had regarding what I view as the financial industry's basic dilemma: The best investment advice fits on an index card. A commenter asked for the actual index card. Although I was originally speaking in metaphor, I grabbed a pen and one of my daughter's note cards, scribbled this out in maybe three minutes, snapped a picture with my iPhone, and the rest was history.

More advisors and investors caught onto the idea and started writing their own financial plans on a single index card.

I love the exercise, because it makes you think about what's important and forces you to be succinct.

So, here's my index-card financial plan:


Everything else is details. 

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