Straight Facts on Social Security 2009

Fact Sheet | September 1, 2009

Executive Summary

Social Security is more than just a retirement plan.

It is the bedrock of economic security for millions of children and parents, as well as working and retired Americans.

• Social Security provided $615 billion in benefits to 51 million people in 2008.

• 3.2 million children through age 19 are direct Social Security beneficiaries; many others have an immediate family member who receives Social Security benefits.

• One third of beneficiaries collect survivors or disability insurance, keeping millions of families with a disabled or deceased breadwinner out of poverty.

Social Security benefits are progressive, replacing half the earnings for a low wage worker, one-third for median wage earners, and one-quarter for high wage workers. Social Security has almost eliminated poverty among the elderly, thanks to lifetime retirement benefits, annual cost of living increases, and family benefits.

Social Security is in good shape financially-now and far into the future.

Even with the economy in recession, Social Security currently operates at a surplus. And the program is projected to have ample funding to serve future generations, including:

• Baby-Boomers: Social Security has been collecting extra payroll taxes for the past 25 years to prepare for the retirement of the baby boom generation. For example, in 2008 Social Security took in $49 billion more in payroll taxes and $131 billion more in interest and other income than it paid out in benefits and expenses.

• Gen-Xers, Gen-Ys and Millennials: Even if Social Security’s Trust Fund is spent down during the baby boomers’ retirement years, because benefits actually go up a little faster than inflation, Social Security payroll taxes alone will finance benefits for later retirees worth more than today’s seniors receive.

Meanwhile young workers can rest assured that if anything happens to them, their families will receive survivors or disability benefits.


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Posted in Social Security