November 4, 2010

Your Social Security

By Karen Cole
Social Security District Manager
Davenport, Iowa


The cool winds and changing leaves are tell-tale signs: another autumn has arrived. Sometimes it’s hard to believe how quickly the seasons change and the years pass by. Whatever season of life you happen to be in, it may be a good time to reflect on the protection you have through Social Security.

Each stage of life — from the spring of youth to the summer of middle age to the autumn of retirement — comes with its own set of financial concerns. And in each situation, Social Security is there to help.

Of the more than 53 million Americans receiving Social Security benefits, nearly one-third are not retired workers or their dependents. They’re disabled workers and their families, or the survivors of a deceased worker. These non-retirement Social Security benefits can be especially important to young workers because about one-in-eight young people will die before retirement, and about one-in-four will become disabled.

While the death of a husband, wife, or parent is emotionally devastating, it often can be financially devastating as well. Social Security provides a monthly survivors benefit payment to help the qualified family members of a deceased worker.

Social Security disability protection is equally valuable. Few workers have an employer-provided, long-term disability policy. With Social Security, however, the average worker has the equivalent of a disability insurance policy that pays monthly benefits to workers and their families, based on the workers’ lifetime earnings. So you can rest a little easier knowing that Social Security provides some measure of security, if life does not turn out as planned.

On the other hand, if you do work and retire as planned, Social Security serves as the foundation for a secure retirement. Social Security is the largest source of income for most elderly Americans today, but Social Security was never intended to be your only source of income when you retire. You also will need other savings, investments, pensions or retirement accounts to make sure you have enough money to live comfortably when you retire.

The Social Security Statement that you receive in the mail each year provides an estimate of your retirement, survivors, and disability insurance benefits. If you’d like to try out some different scenarios and see how various retirement ages and future earnings may change your retirement picture, visit our online Retirement Estimator at It provides an instant, personalized estimate of your future benefits.

And perhaps the best news of all is that it’s easier than ever to apply for retirement benefits. You can do it right from the comfort and convenience of your home or office by visiting It can take as little as 15 minutes.

Whether you’re young or old, Social Security is there through every season. You can find out more at


It’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again: Social Security is the nation’s most successful domestic program. It has helped America by helping Americans, one at a time. This year marks the 75th anniversary of Social Security. As you can imagine, we have quite a story to share.

We could tell you about how we help keep older Americans out of poverty. We could mention those who are helped by disability benefits and the work incentives that help those with disabilities go back to work. We could spotlight the dependent families of those left behind when a worker dies and how survivors benefits help them survive. These are all stories worth telling.

We recently asked Americans to share their Social Security stories with us and the response was overwhelming.

“Social Security is my lifeline,” wrote one person. “It is difficult at best to live within the limit of my income, but it would be impossible without it.”

“As a WWII combat veteran and a hard working man since the age of 10 being raised on a farm, without my Social Security retirement, I would spend my senior years as a homeless derelict,” wrote another. “Thank God for Social Security.”

Another man wrote, “When I began contributing to the Social Security fund, I was a young man and never thought that one day I would look forward to receiving my monthly check. Now it is an important day in the lives of my wife and me when our checks arrive.”

Not all comments were about retirement benefits. Disability benefits also make a big difference in the lives of Americans.

“I am so grateful for Social Security Disability. I truly believe I would be dead by now if not for the help I have received,” wrote one recipient.

“Disability benefits saved my life,” said a veteran. “After combat service as a Corpsman with the Marines in Desert Storm, I spent 16 years in emotional turmoil. Because Social Security provided a financial safety net, I was able to obtain treatment for PTSD and will soon return to the world of the working (and the tax-paying). God bless America and God bless the Social Security Administration.”

A similar sentiment came from this person: “I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world. After being placed on disability for an on-the-job injury, Social Security helped me maintain a lifestyle adequate for my family. For years, I paid into the program and complained every time I looked at my paycheck. I now see the reason for the payments. Thank God for the USA and Social Security.”

These are just a few of the comments we received. Read more Social Security stories from Americans like you at