It was my benefits summary, and it told me that I currently have 38 of the 40 credits needed to get Social Security retirement benefits.
My work history starts in 1998 but for many years – especially those in China – I didn’t work/contribute to the system.
So I’m getting there.
Something else the letter told me is that should I die, my wife and son will get $1,247 a month.
Dang…some months I don’t even make that on my own!
In that regard, maybe I’d be more help to my family if I was dead.
Alas, that’s no way to think…though many Montanans are thinking it.
We know we have a terrible problem with older men killing themselves here (81% of all suicides in Montana are men), and many time they cite the idea that they’re a burden to their families as the reason why.
Other reasons include social isolation, access to guns, our high drinking rate, limited healthcare and poverty.
I guess money is tight in those households, as it is in many Montana households.
Hell, even if you’re making a combined $100,000 a year or more, it doesn’t mean you’re doing any better than a guy making $20,000 a year.
Car payments, the mortgage, credit card debt, medical debt, college savings, student loans, health insurance, home insurance, the cable bill, the power bill, the phone bill, the water bill, the…
…the list goes on and on and for each family it’s different.
Last year it was reported that 76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.
Even if you’re one of the 24% of families that’s not, there isn’t much left over.
Average households are bringing home $51,000 in pay a year and they spend more than:
- $17,000 on housing
- $9,000 on transportation
- $6,600 on food
- $5,500 on insurance
- $3,600 on healthcare
- $2,400 on entertainment
- $1,800 on child/spouse support
- $1,600 on clothes
That comes out to $47,500 a year, and we’re not even counting the $3,200 in “other expenditures” that people typically make.
That leaves us with $300 left over for the year, or 82 cents a day that we manage to 'save.'
Montana’s per capita income is about $24,000 (it was $30,000 in 2006) so we do things on a much smaller scale here, but we’re still spending on about the same things.
I personally don’t know anyone spending $17,000 on housing each year, for instance (though many do).
I spent $8,100 on rent last year, myself.
And $9,000 on transportation? WTF!?!
I know for a fact that those getting $973 a month in Social Security aren’t spending that much.
That’s the average amount that Montana’s 131,000 residents over the age of 65 receive each month…at least in 2006, according to an AARP PDF report.
That year seniors made up 14% of our population, but last year they were up to 19%. By 2030 they’ll be at 26%.
But we’re not just talking about old people, for more than 172,000 Montanans were getting Social Security benefits in 2006 (49 million Americans did that year).
So these are our survivors, permanently injured or sick, and maybe even a few that have gamed the system.
The Social Security Administration tells us that 65% of Montanan recipients are retirees but 35% are not.
That breaks down as so:
- 16,000 widows and widowers
- 21,000 that are disabled
- 10,000 spouses
- 12,000 children
Still, keep that magic number of $973 a month in mind.
That’s how much these people are getting each month, on average, and that comes out to just $11,672 a year.
The poverty line is set at $11,770 for a single individual. That means those folks are making $98 less than the poverty level.
Let’s not forget that there was no cost of living increase for Social Security in 2016 and also in 2011 and 2010.
How do these people live?