16. Charlie Chaplin fathered kids into his seventies. If your client and her spouse or ex-spouse had a family later in life and one is collecting retirement benefits, the kids can get child benefits through age 17, or 19 if still in secondary school.

17. If the kids can get benefits off a spouse’s or ex-spouse’s retirement benefits, the client can get a mommy/daddy benefit too until the child reaches age 16.

18. Minor or disabled children can get survivor benefits from a deceased spouse or deceased ex-spouse’s record. The age limit is 19 if the child is still in secondary school, but there is no age limit if they were disabled prior to attaining adulthood.

19. Regardless of age, a client can collect a mommy/daddy survivor benefit, too, if the deceased spouse or deceased ex-spouse died and the union produced children who are still under age 16.

20. Because these mommy/daddy benefits are payable no matter how old one is, if a client is getting mommy/daddy survivor payments because of an under age 16 beneficiary, she might not want to claim her standard spousal survivor benefit at age 60.  Claiming the standard spousal survivor benefit will permanently reduce the amount paid for claiming prior to FRA. The mommy/daddy survivor benefit is not subject to such a reduction.

21. However, if a client is working and the mommy/daddy survivor benefits are lost due to the earnings test, she won’t get the adjustment to the reduction factor described earlier.   

22. The total benefits to a client, her spouse and their children that can be received on her earnings record can’t exceed a family maximum.

23. I don’t trust or rely on Social Security’s online benefit calculators. They seem to have trouble with most everything other than straight retirement benefits.

24. On a positive note, for younger folks, benefit estimates may be notably less than what will actually be paid.  Apparently, the Social Security site assumes no inflation or real wage growth.

Yes, indeed, the Social Security system can be among the most complicated programs you and your clients will have to navigate, but it also offers opportunities to those who can navigate the ins and outs.