A false sense of security?

Building on Caroline’s post about money matters earlier this week, I’d like to talk Social Security. But can we not talk about partisan debates or privatization and talk about what happens to SAHM’s who don’t earn work credit?

Since turning the legal working age I’ve held many jobs. Most part time. Most on an hourly wage. Many were tutoring jobs or jobs that gave us free rent but no direct income. Only for the last two years have I had a steady, significant paycheck that’s a salaried wage. According to my Social Security statement, I’ve earned 11 credits toward Social Security. I need 20 to see any disability benefits and 40 to get any Social Security payments when I turn 65.

This bothers me. This means that were I to be a SAHM for the rest of my life I wouldn’t have enough credits to earn my own Social Security. So I am dependent on my spouse for any future benefits. For you SAHMs out there, do you find this frightening or discouraging? Or have you even considered it before?

Jana

Jana is university administrator and History professor. Her soloblog is http://janaremy.com/pilgrimsteps/

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18 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m not a SAHM, but I agree with you that this is a major flaw in our Social Security system.

  2. Naismith says:

    Perhaps you could explain what kind of system you think would be better.

    I think the current system bends over backwards for families. Spouses reaching retirement age get 50% of the highest-earner’s benefit, then get the full benefit if the retiree dies. A single person pays the same FICA taxes as the married person, but only gets their own benefit upon retirement. If it is unfair to anyone it is to singles!

    Yes, there is the indignity of not qualifying on your own. But a lot of us who do qualify in terms of credits worked will still take the dependent benefit because it is higher than our own benefit.

    (Note that divorced people still qualify for the ex-spouse’s dependent benefit if they had been married for 10 years.)

  3. Caroline says:

    Not having much understanding of Social Security, I haven’t considered it much. But it does sound to me like stay at home moms in the U.S. do not get the same type of support from the government that women in European countries do. I’ve heard tales of women who are paid by the government to stay home with children, jobs that are guaranteed for two years after a woman has a baby, long paternity leaves, etc. Reforming SS to acknowledge the work that women do in the home does sound like something good to consider.

  4. Dalene says:

    Personally I don’t expect a dime from Social Security and my plan is once the kids are gone I can work a second job just for retirement savings in order to compensate. Baby boomers (I’m a tail end one myself–I’m sure it will all be gone before I get to retire) will be withdrawing benefits faster than up and coming generations will be building it back up.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I suggest you stop relying on the government to support you when you retire and save your money wisely. It is not the job of the government to look after you financially.

    You create a terrible tax burden for the generation that comes after you by expecting to live off of them. It is unsustainable.

  6. M&M says:

    I agree with Anonymous that we shouldn’t depend on the government at all. We should be prepared for eventualities in life as our leaders have said, but not depend on the government to take care of us.

    I also take dalene’s approach and don’t look to SS at all as a possible source of income, either when I retire or if something unexpected were to happen to my spouse or our marriage. That is why there is life insurance and preparation, in my book. 🙂

  7. starfoxy says:

    Re; depending on the government isn’t always wise, however if benefits are going to be passed out I think it is in everyone’s best interest to ensure that they are passed out fairly. I also think that the way benefits are passed out is a strong reflection of what kind of work society values.

    Since stay-at-home parents get no direct benefits for the immensely valuable work that they do and service they provide at great personal cost it is clear that our economy has little respect for at home parents and has no intention of protecting them in any way.

  8. Naismith says:

    So dalene, m&m, are you going to refuse Medicare enrollment and SS payments?

    I agree that we shouldn’t *rely* on them, but since we paid a lot of taxes to qualify, I don’t see a problem with accepting the benefits (if they still exist).

  9. Naismith says:

    The other thing about life insurance is that it becomes prohibitively expensive after a certain age.

    I dropped my life insurance when I earned enough SS credits that my children and spouse would qualify for benefits were I killed or disabled.

  10. Kristine N says:

    So, I suspect that your opinion on whether or not you think SAHM’s (or WAHM’s) deserve social security is probably colored by what you see as the purpose for SS. I am personally of the opinion that SS is primarily a welfare program, meaning at its heart it is meant to redistribute wealth from those who have money (those currently working) to those who do not have money (those not currently working due to advanced age). The whole point for me is that we’re trying to keep people who have worked all their lives, contributing the the economy, from falling into abject poverty at the end of their lives. It’s not really a “retirement plan” unless all you’re after is eating something that isn’t catfood.

    Because you don’t earn money as a SAHM your economic contribution isn’t counted, which I think is a problem in general. The work done by parents, and primarily by women, in preparing children to become productive adults is critical to the economy, and yet there is no system of compensation for it. There should be. I think giving SS benefits (perhaps small, but real) to women who sacrifice a significant chunk of their wage-earning years to raising children is definitely in keeping with what I see as the mission of social security (keeping the elderly out of abject poverty).

    As for SS failing in the future, if the awarding of benefits is adjusted to reflect inflation rather than wage increases (something I think would be more in keeping with the goal of avoiding poverty for everyone anyway) it’s likely the system will continue to function for quite a bit longer than a lot of people suggest. Realistically, the “failure of SS” is based on economic projections, which is a pretty voodoo “science” anyway. It’s wise to take any claim based on an economic projection (from anyone!) with a grain of salt.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I’ve got 37 credits. I only worked fulltime for about 3 years, but years of part-time in high school, college, etc. But once you add up my husband’s top 30 years of income (probably age 35-65) then I will definitely come out ahead going with 50% of his.
    I think that it is one of the few instances where SAHMs still get some sort of benefit!!!! (Health insurance is usually not offered free for spouses by most companies anymore).
    I read my SS statement carefully and have thought about this a lot.
    I have life insurance for only $15/month.
    I checked into disability insurance (Social Security disability only kicks in after one year, so it has to be long term). No such thing as private disability insurance for SAHMs or non-employed people.

  12. SilverRain says:

    It used to be that the children you spent so much time and energy raising were the ones who made sure you didn’t fall into “abject poverty” at the end of your life.

  13. z says:

    But that was never a complete solution, SilverRain. What if the children died, or were in poverty themselves, or were unwilling to support?

    Check out this graph from the National Bureau of Economic Research
    http://www.nber.org/aginghealth/summer04/w10466.html

    See how the poverty rate among the elderly declined dramatically after Social Security was instituted? Let’s not pretend everything was working well before, because that’s just not true. It “used to be” for some people, but for 35% it really wasn’t.

  14. Justine says:

    I cannot, under any realistic paradigm, imagine SS going away for those with enough credits. I’m not banking on it being there for me, but given the current and forecasted political climate where politicians of all parties tend to be too afraid to actually do anything hard or painful for the American people, even if it is for our own eventual good, Social Security will be safely harbored in the array of pandering to the people.

    I don’t have enough credits either, right now, but am still in the throes of parenting. I don’t know if I will ever go back to work, and have sometimes wondered what will happen to the money I’ve paid into Social Security.

    I don’t see SS as akin to welfare, though, largely because we all pay into the system for the sole purpose of a later pay-out. That’s what the whole privatization debate is about.

    We do qualify for death benefits and such, but that’s kind of cold comfort, eh?

    Don’t 40 credits equate to something like 10 years of time spent in employ?

  15. Anonymous says:

    Why should a SAHM get any benefits from SS when she makes no contributions? (I am talking about monetary contributions. I think the overall contributions SAHMs make to society is massive)

    If her husband wishes to contribute double, she should be fully covered. Assuming she should be covered just because she is married is unjust towards singles or couples with no kids.

    If two people are to be covered, the equivalent of two contributions need to be made. Something for nothing never works. If you want a benefit, you have to sacrifice somewhere for it. Not dump the burden on the single and childless.

    • Jacklyn says:

      Or when it will be, maybe you know something, or perhaps the nominations anconnnemeut date. The last year, two weeks after the ceremony, the schedule was released, but this year, after almost two MONTHS, I don’t know the date for next year’s oscar. Do you know something about it?

  16. Piper says:

    Anonymous, you forget that when you pay into SS you aren’t paying for your own retirement you are paying for someone else’s. Therefore benefits paid to the single and childless will be paid for by the children of the SAHMs, the same SAHMs that are sacrificing a good chunk of their income (current and potential) to raise the kids effectively.

  17. Anonymous says:

    So if I decide to never have kids, never work and stay at home and eat bon bons all day long, then Piper’s kids should still pay for me to have full benefits just because I am married? Welcome to socialism

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