Native Chicagoan Beth Finke knows first-hand how Social Security can benefit children and their families. As the youngest in a family of seven children, she became a first-time Social Security recipient at three-years- old following the death of her father. At the time, four of her brothers and sisters also lived at home. Beth and her siblings received Social Security survivor benefits, which allowed her mother to make ends meet.
“The survivor benefits literally allowed our family to survive,” Beth said.
In addition to helping her family survive, Social Security played another important role in Beth’s life as a young adult. During the years Beth attended college, the government continued to provide Social Security benefits for youth up to age 22 enrolled in college. By eliminating the need to immediately enter the workforce at age 18 to support themselves and their families, this extension helped many students like Beth complete their post-secondary education successfully. This benefit, since rescinded and unavailable for today’s young adults, made it possible for Beth to go to college and get a degree in journalism.
“Without the college degree, I don’t where I would be,” Beth said. “We certainly did not have the resources to manage that, and if I didn’t have the student benefit, I would never have been able to go.”
At age 26, Beth lost her sight from a rare disease called diabetic retinopathy. As she adjusted to her vision loss, the education that she received from Social Security survivor benefits became even more critical to her future success. With the aid of a talking computer and the skills she learned as a journalism major, Beth launched a successful career as a writer. Now an award-winning author, teacher, and speaker, Beth credits Social Security for enabling her to support herself as an adult and to give back to others. Today at 52, she often speaks to young children about her experiences and reads to them from her children’s about her guide dog Hanna.
“All my adult life, I have worked hard,” Beth said. “Social Security paid my way through college so I could work and pay into the system myself, which I am very happy to do.”
For more Social Security success stories, download Generations United’s publication Social Security: What’s at Stake for Children, Youth and Older Adults.