Social Security Is Important to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Photograph of Christopher Kang, National Director, National Council of Asian Pacific AmericansHappy Year of the Monkey! The Lunar New Year is another opportunity for us to make New Year’s resolutions. For many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, having a better understanding of Social Security should be on their list of things to do.

I had to learn about many of Social Security’s programs very quickly a few years ago, when my dad passed away. I found myself immersed in the world of survivor benefits, pensions, and overall income security for my mom. I learned that my parents were fortunate — Social Security was one source of their income, but not their only one.

Statistics show that a large percentage of elderly Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders rely on Social Security for at least 90 percent of their income. This important detail reminds us that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders need to invest for a better financial future.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are one the fastest-growing ethnic groups in America. They are also one of the fastest-growing populations of older adults. According to the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging, U.S. Census data estimates that nearly 1.6 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are age 65 and older. This number is projected to grow to 7.3 million by 2060.

The needs of the aging Asian American and Pacific Islander community are unique. Approximately 85 percent of Asian Americans aged 65 and older are foreign-born and this diverse population speaks more than 100 languages and dialects. Furthermore, 60 percent of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders over age 65 have limited English proficiency. Thirty-one percent live in a linguistically isolated household, meaning those in the household speak English “less than very well.”

Helping a community with such diverse language and cultural backgrounds prepare for retirement requires that the services be culturally competent and linguistically accessible. Social Security provides essential resources for the diverse needs of this population, including information in Chinese, Hmong, Korean, Tagalog and Vietnamese, and the opportunity to access an interpreter by contacting Social Security at the toll-free number: 1-800-772-1213. Telephone interpreter services for people with limited English proficiency are available at free of charge.

Although Social Security provides many in-language resources, too many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders don’t know about them. These groups are often stereotyped as “model minorities” not requiring public assistance services. The reality is that people in this group were among those hardest hit by the recession. Data from the 2010 Census shows that many Asian American and Pacific Islander sub-groups have a higher rate of poverty among the elderly than the national average, including one sub-group of which most of its elderly lives below the federal poverty level. Despite this, the stereotype label may make some people in these communities reluctant to reach out for assistance.

Social Security is a lifeline for many in these communities that not only functions as a retirement program, but also provides protection through disability insurance and financial support for families with children.

While many of us celebrate the Lunar New Year with our families, we need to spread the word about how Social Security benefits our community and us. Whether it is for our parents, our grandparents, or ourselves, it is important to understand how Social Security is important to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.


35 thoughts on “Social Security Is Important to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

      • Hello Mr. Fernandez,
        It is not clear if the widow “must have an SSN or not”. Please clear that up for us. The next question is.. what if that current spouse is not the first wife, nor has an SSN. Thank you for your response in advance.

        • Good questions George. For the most part, state or federal law requires an individual to have a Social Security number to get benefits that person may be entitled to. To answer your second question: A divorced spouse of a worker who dies, could get benefits just the same as a widow, provided that their marriage lasted 10 years or more. Please visit our Survivors Benefit Planner for more information.

    • The Social Security benefit that one gets upon retirement is dependent on how much you paid into the system during your working life over how long a time. The calculations used in computing the benefit is universally the same for all . No one gets social security if they did not pay into the FICA. The so-called supplemental security income is a separate category.

    • Thanks for your comment! We appreciate your thoughts. We will continue our efforts to meet your requirements and expectations in the years to come.

  1. Reply to Terry and Tired: Just because some A/PI people don’t speak the language well does not mean they haven’t paid Social Security taxes. If they were drawing a paycheck, they paid into the system and are eligible for benefits. BTW, my American-born, Caucasian grandmother was a housewife (as many were in the 1930s and 40s) and did not work outside the home. She collected SS when she was eligible.

    • I’m sure these generous, loving, fair-minded individuals do not believe your grandmother is entitled to SS benefits, either. Clearly they don’t have any more clue as to how Social Security works than the Asian Americans they’re denigrating.

  2. Happy Lunar New Year! Thank you, Mr. Kang for emphasizing the importance of Social Security for all our communities.

    Unfortunately, there will always be those who must point the finger at someone else. As Marc stated, unless you are a Native American, we are all immigrants to this country…some groups just came here earlier than others. Not sure why some feel a sense of entitlement when those who receive Social Security benefits have earned those benefits. If you are referring to Supplemental Security Income benefits, you may to speak to those from your own ethnic group instead of assuming that other ethnicities/communities have not paid into the system.

  3. Terri Evers – Why are their checks bigger than mine?

    Because they may have worked harder, earned more, and paid more into the Social Security system. Sorry, your monthly check is smaller than mine.

  4. If social security is running out of money then why don’t they put the stipulation that if you move and live outside the country; you then give up your social security benefits. I know of several people that currently living here just to earn social security and as soon as they reach retirement age they are packing up an getting out of here for there own country where they will live high on the hog. That isn’t fair to the poor people in this country who are trying to make it before they have to eat dog food. If you disrespect this country that much so should you loose that money.

    • If you paid into the system during your working life you are entitled to collect benefits wherever you live upon retiring. You can also collect your benefits upon retirement and go elsewhere to live “high on the hog”. Can I say, “if you worked in Michigan” you cannot retire in Alabama?” Collecting benefits has nothing to do with where you choose to live. If you paid into the system you can collect anywhere. If you are still poor upon retirement, you have other available support in addition to social security. Ask your local social security office.

    • Wait, if they earned the benefit they are getting by paying Social Security taxes for their work, why should anyone care where they choose to live? Will you say the same to Canadians or other Europeans when they choose to retire in their own country?

    • Many Americans chose to retire in Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, ect. Should we discontinue their SS payments? Why do you care how I or anyone chooses to spend retirement payments we have earned?

  5. Stereo types don’t cause Americans of Asian decent to not reachout. Pride does, their culture looks down on those who go looking for a handout. This was a fluff piece. Asians are not as stupid or uneducated as we are led to believe. In fact their success in this country comes from hard work. Wouldn’t it be nice if that were true of the more recent arrivals?

  6. What is being done to keep soc solvent. Last budget took more money for other government programs. Those on soc should not be the source to resolve government spending problems.

  7. Spell check of there vs their….one 2nd grade student pointed out …go over there…vs…they have their own money…just had to add to confusion of their information…

  8. What about Native American Indians? They are the original American’s and should be taken care of first.


  9. Americans got lazy. Very few thing are made in America. They don’t want to work and stay home collecting SSDI, SSI, and welfare.

    The Federal government gives the Native American Indians a check every year and they don’t even have to work. They don’t even have to pay taxes. If Native American Indians paid Social Security taxes, then they would be eligible for benefits.

  10. How come people don’t care that social security takes back about $3,000 to $4,000 a year from people’s social security benefits. This has been going on for 33 years and the higher the cost of living the higher the take back gets.

  11. In Indonbesian banks have stopped cashing social security checks. Many people receive checks because the only bank which can set up a direct deposit is HSBC which requires a very large deposit to set up an account and a 6 month waiting period befor direct deposit can be requested. Banks in Indonesia are very backward compared to other Asian banks. How are people receiving social security benefits going to survive?

  12. I worked since I was 16 years old but, at that time there was no Social Security where I came from just till recently . According to the Social Security office here where I resign not enough points so am 71 years old still working yes am receiving my spouse Social Security which am getting more by $300.00 more than my Social Security. I have put in 10 years now with my job my question is can I collect my own Social Security Benefits?

    • Thank you for your question, Teresita. You can request that we review your records. To find out if you are eligible for a higher benefit and to discuss your options, contact us at 1-800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday or visit your local Social security office. Thanks!

  13. I have a question when we heard on the news about a month ago we all would all be getting about 38.00 more in 2019 added to our Social Security and then about a month later our land lord of the property i live in i pay lot rent i own the home it in a 55 park and they sent us a letter saying they where going to charge us $ 25.00 so what good is it for getting a small raise when they take it from us their should be a law to where they are not about to do it in my case it going to force me out of my home what can we do ?

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