A participant asked how much the average Social Security survivor benefit amount was while I was teaching a Social Security retirement session this month. At the time I did not know, but have since found the information in the newest edition of the annual Social Security publication, Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2012.
The average amount of any type of Social Security benefit is a moving target. The amount changes each month as new beneficiaries start receiving benefits and others leave the rolls. Wide variability also exists between different types of benefits. Just within the broad topic of Social Security survivors benefits, benefit types include those payable to children, young widows or widowers eligible because of children receiving benefits, widow or widowers at least age 60 as well as those eligible because of disability. This is not a complete list.
For Social Security retirement, survivors and disability average amounts as of December 2011, see Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2012. The link brings you to the Fast Facts booklet. From there, go the section titled OASDI Program (OASDI is old age (retirement), survivors and disability insurance = Social Security) and then to the Average Benefit Amounts section in the left-hand column.
All Social Security amounts are largely based on lifetime earnings of the worker involved. For personal planning, Social Security offers free online tools to help you estimate benefits. For retirement related estimates, go to the Retirement Planner section. Different calculators are there including the Retirement Estimator, which connects to your actual work record.
You can calculate survivor and disability estimates at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/benefitcalculators.htm. Another method, one that provides estimates based on your actual work record, is to register and get your Social Security Statement online. In your Statement are estimates for retirement, disability and survivors benefits plus a list of your lifetime earnings amounts according to Social Security records. View a sample Statement at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement/SSA-7005-OL.pdf.
To protect your personal information, before getting your Statement online you register by creating a My Social Security Account. Instructions and a short video explaining the registration process are at the Social Security Statement online page.
Average amounts can be useful. For personal family financial planning, estimates based on your own work record are better.