Far from it. While retirees account for more than 72 percent of the people receiving Social Security benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) also makes payments to:
- Nearly 2.9 million spouses, former spouses and dependent children of retirees.
- More than 5.8 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 nearly 8 million disabled workers and approximately 1.4 million members of their families.
Here are a few more key Social Security stats as of September 2021:
- Some 65.1 million people are drawing retirement, disability, family or survivor benefits from Social Security, totaling $93.7 billion a month.
- Nearly 3.9 million of those beneficiaries are children. Social Security pays more benefits to children than any other program of the federal government.
- About 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 September 2021.
Updated October 21, 2021
Find the answers to the most common Social Security questions such as when to claim, how to maximize your retirement benefits and more.