The Three-for-One Idea: There’s more to Social Security than meets the eye

fyi50+: Much has been written recently about Social Security funding and its importance to retirees. However, Social Security is really three programs wrapped into one. It provides benefits for retirees, people who are disabled, and survivors of workers who leave us. I asked Dave Freitag to help us better understand the details about these often-overlooked benefits provided by Social Security.

Dave Freitag: The retirement benefits are by far the most significant part of the program.

In the 2022 Trustees Report to Congress and the President, the Social Security Administration reported more than 50 million workers and their dependents receive a monthly retirement check. The average retirement check for all retired workers is $1,827 a month. For couples 65 or older, the average check is $2,972 a month.

This income is a significant part of most retirement plans and represents some of the most predictable and secure income sources indexed for cost-of-living increases. Remember that, in 2023, the cost of living increased by a significant 8.7%.

After retirement benefits are those benefits paid to workers who can no longer work due to disability. The Trustees Report notes that nine million disabled people are receiving checks each month. The average benefit for a disabled worker with a spouse and one child is $2,616 monthly. The average benefit for all disabled workers is $1,483 a month.

fyi50+: Dave, what is the definition of Social Security Disability, and how hard is it to qualify for benefits?

Dave: As you can imagine, the Social Security definition of disability is extremely difficult to meet.

1. You cannot work because of your disability.

2. You cannot adjust or retrain to another job or career because of the disability.

3. Your medical condition will keep you from working for a year or more, or is expected to result in your death.

Even with this strict definition, disabled workers have a benefit lifeline that helps them pay for things they need.

Applying for disability benefits can take a long time. Doctor reports, testing, and other requirements must be satisfied before a worker can qualify for a check.

fyi50+:  What about someone who has a severe medical condition? Is it easier for them to qualify?

Dave: The SSA has introduced the Compassionate Allowance and Quick Disability Determination programs. Both initiatives are designed to speed up the application process and provide necessary benefits to those who need them.

People who need these benefits can find more details about these programs by visiting the www.SSA.Gov website.   

fyi50+: What about the survivor benefits?

Dave: A worker dying creates a significant need for income for the family they leave behind. These Social Security survivor benefits are a form of life insurance and can be a major lifeline to spouses and younger dependents. The SSA reports that six million people are receiving survivor benefits. For younger families with two children, the Social Security benefit on average is $3,520 a month. For widows or widowers of a worker older than 65, the average payment is $1,704 a month.

It is important to remember that more than 15 million people in this country currently benefit from two Social Security programs that have nothing to do with retirement.

All three programs are funded by a 6.2% payroll tax which the employer matches. Social Security is the three-for-one idea that provides a foundation of benefits for over 168 million workers in this country.

It is hard to imagine what we would do without it.


David Freitag

David Freitag, an industry veteran in financial services and wealth management, brings a deep passion and unparalleled knowledge of Social Security filing strategies and retirement income planning to his current role as a financial planning consultant for the Advanced Concepts Design Group of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). His also holds a Master of Education and Bachelor of Science degrees from the University of Maryland.

Related Articles

Back to top button