Today it’s not uncommon to see parents of retirement age with young children at home.

Young adults are not rushing to get married. Many delay marriage to save money, buy a house, or establish themselves in their careers. The rise in the divorce rate has also seen an increase in the number of older adults starting a second family.

These changing demographics, however, may put more children in line for Social Security benefits.

A growing number of parents who have reached retirement age are eligible for Social Security benefits and have dependent children living at home. In these families, dependent children may be able to receive benefits, too.

Consider the demographics

The average age of first-time mothers and fathers has been on the rise for more than a decade. In 2011, the average first-time father was 27.4 years old, compared with 25.3 years old in 1987, according to Bowling Green State University. For women, the average age was 24, up from 22.7 in 1987.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services looked at the trend among women in 2014 and found the mean age for a first-time mother was 26.3 in 2014, up from 24.9 in 2000.

It’s often celebrities who grab headlines when starting new families as seniors, such as Rolling Stone Ron Wood who fathered twins at the age of 68; musician Billy Joel, who became a father at 66; or actor/director Robert De Niro at 68. But in general, there is an increasing number of children born to men over the age of 50 today.

In 2015, the U.S. Census found that 18.4% of men and 10.3% of women over the age of 50 had minor children (under age 18) living in the home.

A retired parent may mean benefits for children

About 4.3 million children receive Social Security benefits because one or both of their parents are disabled, retired, or deceased. Benefits may be claimed by biological children, legally adopted children, or stepchildren.

In order for children to receive benefits, they must be:

  • Unmarried
  • Younger than 18
  • Or between 18 and 19 years old if they are full-time students
  • Or 18 or older and disabled. Children over 18 who are disabled are also eligible, with no upper age limit as long as they were disabled by age 22.

When to claim varies

If adults have reached an age where they can claim Social Security benefits, they may not want to delay the claim if they have dependent children. Social Security offers detailed information on making a family claim, including dependent benefits. Depending on when the child turns 18, it may be worth claiming Social Security as soon as a parent is
eligible.

Parents who are caring for dependent children may want to seek professional advice before claiming Social Security to ensure the decision will maximize the benefit potential for both parents and children. Many families rely on Social Security for a portion of retirement income, and there are different ways to claim benefits. For more information on optimizing benefits, read Putnam’s investor education article, “Optimizing Social Security: Five things you need to know.”


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