Far from it. While retirees account for nearly 72 percent of the people receiving Social Security benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) also makes payments to:
- More than 2.9 million spouses, former spouses and dependent children of retirees.
- Almost 5.9 million widows and widowers, former spouses, children and (occasionally) parents of wage earners who have died.
- Disabled persons of all ages and their spouses and children. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) goes to about 8.1 million disabled workers and more than 1.4 million members of their families.
Here are a few more key Social Security stats as of June 2021:
- Some 65 million people are drawing retirement, disability, family or survivor benefits from Social Security, totaling $93.2 billion a month.
- Nearly 4 million of those beneficiaries are children. Social Security pays more benefits to children than any other program of the federal government.
- More than 7.8 million people receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a program run by Social Security that provides cash assistance to older, blind and disabled people with very low incomes. Nearly 2.3 million people ages 65 and over receive SSI.
Keep in mind
- You must have spent a certain amount of time in work in which you paid Social Security taxes to qualify for retirement benefits or SSDI. That's not the case with SSI — eligibility is based on financial need and your age or medical condition.
- It's possible to receive both Social Security benefits and SSI, if you qualify for both. About 2.6 million people did in May 2021.
Updated July 27, 2021
Find the answers to the most common Social Security questions such as when to claim, how to maximize your retirement benefits and more.