Social Security Programs: Survivors Benefits, Disability Benefits, and Retirement Benefits Administered by the SSA
Social Security Survivors Benefits
Younger Americans face roughly a 1-in-5 chance of dying before reaching age 65. Social Security Survivors Benefits, which are paid to a deceased worker's family, can help with financial problems that sometimes follow a worker's death by providing continuing cash income.
The value of Social Security Survivors Benefits for an average wage earner who dies and leaves a spouse and two children is equivalent to a $322,000 life insurance policy. Of course, Social Security Survivors Benefits are paid monthly and not in a one time payment.
The average monthly Social Security Survivors Benefit payment for a family consisting of a widow(er) with two children is about $1,400 per month. Social Security Survivors Benefit payments increase based on the annual cost-of-living index -- something few private insurance plans offer.
Who, exactly, can get Social Security Survivors Benefits? Children under 18 can get Social Security Survivors Benefits, and so can a child who is under 19, but still in high school . . . or a child who is 18 or older but who becomes disabled before age 22. A widow(er) who is caring for children under age 16 or disabled may receive benefits. A widow(er) age 60 or older, or a widow(er) age 50 or older who is disabled, may receive benefits.
Today, Social Security pays monthly Survivor's Benefits to 7.4 million Americans, almost 2 million of whom are children.
For information on how you earn Social Security Survivors Benefits for your family, see Social Security Credits - Qualifying for Social Security Benefits.
Social Security Disability Benefits
The Social Security Administration (SSA) also protects a worker who becomes severely disabled. It is important protection. Studies show that a 20-year-old worker stands nearly a 3-in-10 chance of becoming disabled before age 65.
Few workers have private, long-term disability insurance. But nearly all workers do have Social Security Disability protection, which is equivalent to a $201,000 disability policy for an average income earner with a spouse and two children.
Under Social Security Disability, workers are considered disabled if they have a severe physical or mental condition that prevents them from working. The condition must be expected to last for at least 12 months or to result in death. Once benefits begin, they continue for as long as the worker is disabled and cannot work. The disabled worker and his or her eligible family members receive checks each month.
More than 4 million disabled workers under 65, and 1.7 million dependents (including more than a million children) receive Social Security Disability Benefits. The average monthly Social Security Disability Benefit payment to a disabled worker is about $780; for a disabled worker with a spouse and two or more children, the average Social Security Disability Benefit payment is about $1,200.
Social Security Disability insurance is a program that workers, employers, and the self-employed pay for with their Social Security taxes. You qualify for these Social Security Disability Benefits based on your work history, and the amount of your benefit is based on your earnings. For more details on qualifying for Social Security Disability insurance, see Social Security Credits - Qualifying for Social Security Benefits.
Social Security Retirement Benefits
Social Security pays monthly retirement benefits to more than 30 million retired workers and their families. More than 9 out of 10 Americans who are age 65 or older get Social Security Retirement Benefits.
Full retirement Social Security Retirement Benefits are now payable at age 65, with reduced benefits available as early as age 62. The age for full Social Security Retirement Benefits will gradually rise in the future, until it reaches age 67 in 2027 for people born in 1960 or later. (Reduced Social Security Retirement Benefits will still be available at age 62.)
Financial advisers often tell people that, when they retire, they will need about 70 percent of pre-retirement income to live comfortably. By itself, Social Security Retirement Benefits replace about 60% of the pre-retirement earnings of a low wage earner, 42% of an average wage earner, and 26% of a high wage earner.
For more information about qualifying for Social Security Retirement Benefits, see Social Security Credits - Qualifying for Social Security Benefits.