Understanding Social Security Survivors Benefits

My Comments: Today is Tuesday, which is when I typically post something about Social Security.

Of all the sources of income you are likely to enjoy in retirement, Social Security is hands down the most valuable income source to millions of Americans in the years to come. For those of us married participants, survivor benefits provide enormous peace of mind, not to mention income today.

Yes, there are questions floating around out there scaring the bejeezes out of many people. Chief among them are whether it will run out of money in about 2035,  and will it still exist for those retiring after that.

To that I would say this:

  • In the 1980’s there was a similar threat to the Social Security Trust Funds. They are the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and the Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Funds. They were not growing fast enough to ensure that those in the ‘greatest generation’ would continue to receive benefits, not to mention what might happen to the ‘baby boomers’ when they in turn started to retire.
  • Politically, all those folks expecting to receive benefits represented a huge block of voters. That still holds today, whether you’re talking about those already retired, those that expect to or are receiving disability benefits.
  • In 1983 it dawned on politicians that if they expected to be re-elected, they had better come up with a solution. Changes were made to collect more revenue which are still in place today, changes that will have kept it solvent for about 50 years.
  • I’m betting that when 2033 rolls around, there will be enough pressure from voters that more changes will be made.

Meanwhile, between my wife and I, one of us will survive the other. Which means the survivor will receive the higher of our two benefits. No both benefits, but whichever one is the higher. And like now, there will continue to be a cost of living adjustment every year. It may not be enough, but it has significant meaning.

by Mike Korbey, Deputy Commissioner for Communication, SSA \ https://tinyurl.com/y3qm2hwv

Unfortunately, tragedy can strike without any warning. The loss of the family wage earner can be devastating both emotionally and financially. Social Security helps by providing income for the families of workers who die.

Some of the Social Security taxes you pay go toward survivors benefits for workers and their families. The value of the survivors benefits you have under Social Security may even be more than the value of your individual life insurance. When you die, certain members of your family may be eligible for survivors benefits. These include widows and widowers (and divorced widows and widowers), children, and dependent parents.

Here are the people who can get survivors benefits based on your work:

  • Your widow or widower may be able to get full benefits at full retirement age. The full retirement age for survivors is age 66 for people born in 1945-1956, with the full retirement age gradually increasing to age 67 for people born in 1962 or later. Your widow or widower can get reduced benefits as early as age 60. If your surviving spouse is disabled, benefits can begin as early as age 50.
  • Your widow or widower can get benefits at any age if they take care of your child younger than age 16 or disabled, who is receiving Social Security benefits.
  • Your unmarried children, younger than age 18 (or up to age 19 if they’re attending elementary or secondary school full time), can also get benefits. Your children can get benefits at any age if they were disabled before age 22. Under certain circumstances, we can also pay benefits to your stepchildren, grandchildren, step-grandchildren, or adopted children.
  • Your dependent parents can get benefits if they’re age 62 or older. (For your parents to qualify as dependents, you must have provided at least half of their support.)

You can read more our publication Survivors Benefits for more information.

How much your family can get from Social Security depends on your average lifetime earnings. The more you earned, the more their benefits will be. For more information on widows, widowers, and other survivors, visit our webpage.

Social Security is with you through life’s journey. Be sure to tell friends and family about our Survivors Benefits and how we can help in times of need.