Many government programs benefit only a small number of people, or they provide limited help to a large number of people. However, Social Security is a program that benefits most Americans at some point in their lives. It provides income for senior citizens and disabled people, allowing them to stay in their homes and afford basic necessities, and it provides income for the spouses and children of people who die or become disabled.
Some people who contribute to the Social Security system will never use it, but for those who find themselves struggling financially, the system represents a much-needed safety net.
Social Security by the Numbers
The Social Security Administration provides benefits to a significant percentage of the American population each year. As population grows, so does the size and scope of the program.
- An estimated 171 million workers were covered by the Social Security system, as of 2016.
- Nearly 60 million Americans received some form of Social Security benefit in 2015. The number has steadily increased every year. In 1970, just over 25 million Americans received benefits.
- The amount of money paid out by Social Security increases yearly, too. About $918 billion was paid out in 2016.
- The majority of people receiving benefits are retired workers. Of the 60 million beneficiaries in 2015, over 43 million were retired workers and their dependents.
- Survivors of deceased workers used to be the second-largest group receiving Social Security, but disabled workers and their dependents surpassed them in 2002. In 2015, nearly 11 million disabled Americans received benefits.
- About half of workers in private industries don’t have employer-provided pension funds to rely on once they retire.
The Impact on Beneficiaries
Nine out of 10 Americans over the age of 65 receive Social Security benefits. For millions of retired workers, these benefits make up the majority of their income.
These benefits have always been important for retired workers, but they’ve become more crucial with the increase in life expectancy. The average person now lives six years longer than he or she did in 1940, so elderly people risk outliving their income if they don’t have Social Security payments. Plus, since payments come monthly rather than in lump sums, the people who receive them can rely on steady income.
Survivors and dependents of both retired and disabled workers rely on these payments, too. When a worker dies or suddenly becomes disabled, the person’s spouse and/or children lose that person’s income; that loss can be catastrophic in single-income families. Social Security payments cover the basic necessities people in this situation need to survive.
The Future of Social Security
Despite what some workers believe, a person’s Social Security taxes don’t go into a personal account for his or her future use. Instead, today’s workers pay into a fund that is used to pay the benefits for today’s retired and disabled workers and their dependents. When you retire or become disabled, your Social Security benefits are paid by the people who continue to work.
The ratio of workers paying into the system to workers receiving benefits has steadily decreased over time. In 2003, there were 3.3 active workers for every one person receiving benefits. In 2013, there were 2.8 workers for every beneficiary. The Social Security Administration estimates that by 2035, there will be just 2.2 workers for every beneficiary.
Share this Post