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Social Security offers safeguards

POSTED: November 4, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Each stage of life — youth, middle age, retirement — comes with its own set of financial concerns. Luckily, just by having a better understanding of the Social Security program you should be able to calm some of those concerns.  

The first thing you need to know is that Social Security is much more than a retirement program. Of the 50 million Americans receiving Social Security benefits, nearly one-third are not retired workers or their dependents.  They are severely disabled workers and their families, or the survivors of a deceased worker covered by Social Security.

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.  

The death of a husband, wife or parent can be financially devastating as well.  Social Security provides a monthly survivor benefit check to help the family of a deceased worker continue on.

Social Security disability protection is equally valuable.  Relatively 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 would pay monthly benefits to both the worker and his or her family, based on his or her 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.

For the average wage earner, Social Security will replace about 40 percent of pre-retirement earnings.  And you can earn a higher benefit by choosing to retire a little later instead of a little earlier.

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 different retirement ages and future earnings may change your retirement picture, visit the online retirement estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. It’s a quick, accurate, and easy way to plan for your retirement.

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