Quick facts about why Social Security is vital to Washington women and families

Via the National Women’s Law Center:

Social Security is a family insurance plan that provides retirement benefits and life and disability insurance to Washington’s working families.

  • About 1 in 6 residents – about 1,046,200 people – receives disability, survivor, and/or retirement benefits from Social Security.
  • 93 percent of residents 65 and older receive Social Security benefits.
  • About 70,500 children receive Social Security benefits because of the loss of a parent’s income due to death, disability or retirement.
  • About 180,900 disabled workers and their family members receive Social Security benefits.
  • About 80,000 widowed spouses receive Social Security survivor’s benefits. (Nationally, women represent virtually all (99 percent) of spouses receiving survivor benefits.)

Washington women depend on modest Social Security benefits to get by.

  • Women are a majority of both adult beneficiaries and beneficiaries 65 and older.
  • The average Social Security benefit for women 65 and older is about $12,400 per year, compared to about $16,500 for men 65 and older.
  • Older women rely more on income from Social Security than older men do. Median income for women 65 and older living alone is $18,200 per year – and Social Security represents 72 percent of that amount. Median income for comparable men is $27,500 – and Social Security represents 48 percent of that amount.

Social Security is a critical anti-poverty program for Washington women and families.

  • Social Security lifted 312,000 residents out of poverty, including 14,000 children.
  • Social Security dramatically reduced poverty rates for women 65 and older: from 43 to 10 percent for all women 65 and older, and from 63 to 16 percent for older women living alone.

Another reason to strengthen Social Security: Private retirement plans are weak and uncertain

From Ten Reasons Not to Cut Social Security Benefits:

In the past, many workers could rely on so-called defined benefit pensions provided by their employers, which promised retirement payments based on a worker’s salary and years of service. In the private sector, those once common pensions have all but disappeared. To a large extent, they have been replaced by defined contribution plans such as 401(k)s.

The value of the newer brand of pensions depends largely on how much workers have paid into them and how successfully the investments in the accounts perform. The shift from defined benefit to defined contribution plans essentially has transferred the burdens and risks associated with providing retirement savings from employers to workers.

The graph above shows this sea change in private sector pensions. Among workers with some form of retirement plan, the share with only a defined benefit pension declined from 62 percent in 1979 to 7 percent in 2008. Sixty seven percent of workers with a retirement plan in 2008 had only a 401(k)-type defined contribution plan.

The decline of defined benefit plans has reduced the retirement security of a large share of the workforce, making them more reliant on highly unpredictable and volatile savings plans. In addition, middle- and lower-income workers, who are less likely to participate in defined contributions plans, are now less likely to have any form of pension support at all.

Average life expectancy increasing – but for whom?

From Ten Reasons Not to Cut Social Security Benefits:

The main argument for hiking the Social Security retirement age—which amounts to an across-the-board benefit cut of about 7 percent for each year it is raised—is that average life spans are increasing.

But longevity improvements are highly concentrated among upper-income and well-educated Americans. Over the past twenty five years, life expectancy at age 65 has increased by just one year for lower-income men, compared to five years for upper-income men. As the graph below shows, men in the bottom half of the earnings distribution have shorter life expectancies today than men in the top half had back in 1982. For women in the bottom half of the earnings distribution, life expectancies actually have declined over the same period.

Reducing benefits for everyone on the basis of longevity improvements for only the most prosperous Americans would be an inequitable and poorly reasoned policy response.

Social Security helps George Arévalo care for his three grandchildren

From Social Security: What’s at Stake for Children, Youth, and Grandfamilies

For his next birthday, George Arévalo has a simple plan to celebrate. “I’ll be doing what I’m supposed to be doing – taking care of the children.” With his wife Virginia, 77, George has cared for his three granddaughters, ages 6, 12, and 18, for the past three years. George and Virginia depend on Social Security benefits.

“It’s there to make sure my granddaughters can go to the doctor when they are sick, eat healthy food, and live with loving family members,” George said. “That’s all I have to live on.”

George was in his 70s when he was told his son and his daughter-in-law weren’t going to be able to continue to take care of his grandchildren. The retired barber and his wife decided they would step in.

“I thought to myself, I’m not going to give them to Child Protective Services,” he says. “I’m going to take care of them. And I did. They are happy right here in my home.” Continue reading “Social Security helps George Arévalo care for his three grandchildren”

Watch: Protect and Defend Social Security NOW!

On March 2nd, Seattle activists joined the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) in an informational picket to educate the public on the dire consequences of proposed Republican budget cuts to the Social Security Administration. We must stop these cuts to protect millions of old, young and disabled citizens who earned these benefits.

Call Congress now at 888-360-6518.

How Social Security fills the gap for workers in small businesses

From the Alliance for Retired Americans:

Social Security and Workers in Small Businesses

Today more than 70 million Americans work in private sector firms. Of that number, more than 10 million work in firms with fewer than 100 employees. Generally, the smaller the firm size, the less likely the firm will offer a defined benefit or defined contribution retirement plan to workers. Thus, Social Security benefits are especially important to the retirement income of workers in smaller firms.

According to the Congressional Research Service, only 29.3% of firms with fewer than 25 employees offered retirement plans, compared with 73.5% of firms with more than 100 employees. For firms with 25 to 99 employees, 53.7% of those firms offered retirement plans. Thus, the availability of retirement plans is more limited in smaller firms. In fact, the number of firms with fewer than 99 employees offering plans has declined during the past decade.

Read more from Spotlight: Social Security and Workers in Small Businesses »

En Español | Enfoque: Trabajadores de Pequeña Empresas y el Seguro Social »

Why Social Security is so important for women’s economic security

From the Alliance for Retired Americans:

Women and Social Security

Many older women enter retirement with fewer economic resources than men.

In 2009, half of older women relied on Social Security for 80% or more of their income. This exclusive reliance on Social Security is partly due to the fact that only a small percentage of older women receive pension income. Additionally, most do not have significant personal savings due, in part, to the wage gap, as well as time spent out of the workforce due to family caregiving responsibilities.

Further, while some women may enter their retirement years with additional sources of income, longer life expectancies than men put women at greater risk of exhausting these other sources of income. Social Security is especially important to women and is the principle retirement program for elderly women in the United States.

Read more from Spotlight: Social Security and Workers with Disabilities »

En Español | Enfoque: Las Mujers y el Seguro Social »