Marilyn Watkins enjoyed a happy life in Seattle with her family. Married to an instructor at the University of Washington, she was raising two boys, Carl, 11 and Erik, 9, while working a part-time job. Their lives changed drastically, however, when her husband died suddenly of a heart attack.
“On the night my husband died, Erik had some friends over to the house. I overheard him say to them, ‘My daddy made all the money. How are we going to live?’ Even at his age, he knew it was a concern.”
Because he provided the family’s primary source of income, the death of Marilyn’s husband could have devastated the family financially. Marilyn feared that she might need to leave the family home with her young sons and that another disruption would only bring more anxiety to her boys. Thankfully, Social Security survivor benefits helped to see them through this traumatic period in their lives.
“Social Security made a huge difference,” Marilyn said. “It allowed us to stay in our house and offered security for my boys, who had gone through so much. I think it prevented them from having issues later in life, and I attribute that to Social Security.”
The monthly support meant Marilyn worried about less about her finances as she guided her sons from elementary through high school.
“Being a single mom raising two boys was pretty challenging in itself,” she said. “It was good knowing I could afford to buy them new sneakers or a new coat when they needed it.”
“I think Social Security is really important for middle class families, too,” she continued. “Even if you are earning well above the poverty line, there are always extra expenses coming up – something with the car or the house.”
Both of Marilyn’s sons attended Carlton College and graduated Magna Cum Laude. Erik majored in computer science while Carl studied Geology.
“Social Security gave me the ability to raise my sons without the fear of falling backwards into poverty,” Marilyn said. “Knowing that we would receive an amount in our checking account each month made a huge difference. The stability it allowed me to provide for them was invaluable.”