Social Security Benefits for Retirees - dummies

Social Security Benefits for Retirees

By Jonathan Peterson

Copyright © 2018 by AARP. All rights reserved.

More than 43 million retirees and their spouses get retirement benefits every month. These benefits help millions of people stand on their own two feet instead of relying on their kids or charity or scrambling every month to pay the bills. For about one-third of older beneficiaries, Social Security provides at least 90 percent of their income. But even for people who don’t rely so heavily on Social Security, it provides a solid floor of income in later life.

Although Social Security benefits are generally modest, they help keep 15 million seniors above the poverty line, including many hardworking, middle-class Americans who otherwise would have little to fall back on.

Social Security isn’t intended to be your sole source of income. Instead, it gives you a foundation to build on with personal savings and other income.

If you’re already retired (and not rich), you understand the role these payments play in your monthly budget. If you’re still in the workforce but thinking about that next phase of life, here are a few things to reflect on:

  • Social Security is reliable. Its payments don’t rise and fall with the markets on Wall Street or depend on how your company is faring or how well you selected investments. Social Security income lasts a lifetime.
  • Social Security is accessible. Almost all workers are covered. To put this in perspective, just half of workers are covered by an employer retirement plan, and many of these workers do not even participate.
  • Social Security is protected against inflation, a crucial safeguard. Rising prices can slash the value of fixed income over time, driving down your standard of living in retirement.
  • Social Security is especially important for older women. Women tend to live longer than men do, and they have less income to draw on in old age. Elderly widows are exceptionally vulnerable to poverty.
  • Social Security gives a boost to the least affluent. That’s because the benefit is progressive. Poorer individuals get back a larger share of earnings than their higher-paid peers. Social Security benefits replace about 40 percent of the earnings of an average worker.