A $255 death benefit?

On alternate years, the Social Security Administration sends me a statement estimating various theoretical payouts should I retire or die. I showed up in their system in 1981, when I made a cool $1,337 working in the local grocery store bakery after school. Like Susan, some of my compensation was under-the-table (the forms required to declare day-old donuts and “duck bread” were too fomplicated.)
The actual job also involved a lot of time “under-the-table” cleaning up the catastrophe the morning staff left behind following their performance of the Dance of the Flour Plum Fairies. Come to think of it, this may be one of the reasons I’m obsessive about keeping my kitchen clean as I cook.

Anyway, while perusing the lucid, four-page explanation, I noticed a couple of things I hadn’t before. 1) Including the donut windfall experienced from 1981 through 1983, I’ve fared worse financially during even-numbered decades. 2) There’s a one-time, $255 benefit that my loved ones “may receive upon my death.” I’m glad they clarified the one-timeness aspect as it saves them from the bureaucratic faux pas if I died twice, but only $255 seems … lame. It’s barely enough for my heirs to conduct a manage-it-themselves cremation. (Yes, I checked.) Plus, I think there are more fun and practical ways to spend a one-time $255 death benefit. For example, you could conduct valuable research involving mustard, buy a big stack of two-cent postage stamps to use when the rates increase next month, or sample one of every Krispy Kreme flavor made or… the possibilities are endless.

4 thoughts on “A $255 death benefit?”

  1. Ah…the dance of the death benefit payout. Unsurprisingly the benefits manager at my uncle’s company tried to convince his sister that it might be a good idea for him to “retire” before he died (it would make the forms simpler). It would also reduce the company’s pension payout to his widow from $400,000 to $10,000. No, really, they’re just trying to help. [rolls eyes] The SSA statement can be helpful, though; upon reviewing it the year after I left the dotcom I noticed that my income had been underreported by a good $15,000. A common tax dodge if I ever saw one. And hey, this means you have a birthday coming up, does it not?

  2. The death benefit isn’t supposed to pay for your funeral. It’s just a little money to help you out. It would cover the cost for a very poor person to have their loved one cremated (no ceremony or flowers). It’s not the government’s responsiblity to cover the cost of a funeral. SSI is just to help us out, not make us whole.

    If you look at how much money your wife and children would get if you were to die, I think you would find that to be a lot of money. It is probably higher than the amount of child support they would receive from you if you divorced.

    I wonder what the reason is for SSI paying a death benefit? Maybe they should just stop paying it out. Perhaps the reason is to cover the cost of a discount cremation, which is a good thing if you’re a person who can’t afford it.

    My husband died two years ago and his cremation cost was less than $200.

  3. The $255 would buy a pretty good bottle of champagne to toast you with…

    I may have to revise my Will in order to specify that use!

  4. When my first husband died three years ago, I received the one-time 255$ death “benefit” from social security, following a brief (albeit disturbing) phone call to the SSA.

    I never expected Social Security to cover such things as cremation or burial, but considering how much my husband had paid into his account after only eleven years of work, it was a bit of a slap in the face. Alas, amidst the sudden emotional and financial catastrophe, every bit helped.

    As an FYI, I borrowed and was given enough money to go through with his wishes to be buried, but even selecting the most modest options (read: one small step above a pine box), it came in at just over $4000. That’s no small chunk of change, and was literally as cheap as it gets, after adding up transportation, mortuary fees, casket, plot and burial. Did you know they charge you to dig the hole? Luckily, filling it back in is free. (The total also didn’t include embalming or funeral services.)

    The whole experience made me woefully aware of what an added strain death can be on the families, even after all the grief is accounted for. I used to want to be buried (not sure why exactly), but now I’ve decided to tell my loved ones my preferred wishes, but to add the footnote, “but then again, I’ll be dead, so roll me into the forest for all I care.”

    I just want everyone to know that I love them, I know they love me, and to do whatever they need to do with my body and all of my crap, so long as it helps them out in one way or another.

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