As an eight-year-old, Bill Libro didn’t know the role Social Security played in his life after his father died. His mother collected survivor benefits on behalf of Bill and his two sisters. Only when the survivor benefits played a key role in his ability to attend college, did the full impact of the program hit home for him.
“What eight-year-old knows about the checks that come in?” said Bill. “My dad served in the Pacific during World War II, so I think my mother also received some veteran’s benefits as well. It only occurred to me later how important it was for Social Security to help us get by back then.”
As a stay-at-home mom, Bill’s mother spent most of her days doing chores on their family farm. They lived with Bill’s grandparents, just outside of Hibbing, Minnesota. Bill recalls how living with his grandparents helped everyone.
“Because we lived in a multigenerational household, it allowed us to extend the benefits my mom was receiving on our behalf,” he said. “Our being there allowed my mom to put some of the money aside to help pay for college-related costs for me and my older sister.”
Bill went to Bemidji State University in Minnesota, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in biology. In addition to doing farm chores, Bill worked construction jobs during summers while in high school and college. But, the money he made was never enough to cover his college tuition. Fortunately for Bill, while he was enrolled in college he also received a student benefit from Social Security that he used to help cover the cost of his classes. Others were not so fortunate. In 1981, Congress rescinded Social Security benefits for students enrolled in college.
“I saved up as much as I could each summer,” he said. “The student benefit made a huge difference and helped me remain in college and get my degree.” Now, Bill contributes back into Social Security himself as the Director for Federal Affairs for Minnesota Power.
Reflecting on his childhood, Bill is convinced Social Security played a crucial role in his upbringing.
“Our immediate family had no other sources of expendable income,” he said. “Because we lived on the family farm, we didn’t suffer like some others who were concerned with paying the rent or putting food on the table. But, we all worked hard and certainly scrimped on nearly everything else. Social Security benefits had a huge impact on our lives.”
For more Social Security success stories, download Generations United’s publication Social Security: What’s at Stake for Children, Youth and Older Adults.