Ten Fast Facts about Social Security

1.      Social Security benefits are paid to about 57 million people. Most (40 million) are retirees and their families. The rest are workers who become disabled and families in which a parent or spouse dies.

2.      About 161 million people work and pay Social Security taxes today.

3.      Social Security replaces about 40 percent of an average wage earner’s income after retiring, and most financial advisers say retirees will need 70 percent or more of pre-retirement earnings to live comfortably. This money must come from retirement plans, pensions, and other savings.

4.      Money paid in taxes is not held in personal accounts for individuals to use when they receive benefits. Your taxes are being used now to pay people who are getting benefits today.

5.      You pay Social Security taxes on your earnings up to a certain amount. The amount for 2013 is $113,700.

6.      When you work, 85 cents of every Social Security tax dollar paid goes to a trust fund that makes payments to current retirees and their families and to surviving spouses and children of workers who died. The other 15 cents goes to a trust fund that pays benefits to people with disabilities and their families, as well as covers the cost of managing the Social Security programs.

7.      Workers earn Social Security “credits.” In 2013, you earn one credit for each $1,160 in earnings – up to a maximum of four credits per year (this amount usually goes up every year).

8.      Most people need 40 credits (10 years of work) to qualify for benefits. Younger people need fewer credits to be eligible for disability benefits or for family members to be eligible for survivors’ benefits when the worker dies.

9.      Social Security benefits replace a percentage of earnings when you retire, become disabled, or die. Benefits are based on how much you earned during your career. Higher benefits are paid to those with higher lifetime earnings.

10.  Your payments also depend on when you retire. If you wait until you reach your “full retirement age,” you will receive more than if you start receiving payments after retiring earlier. If you delay receiving benefits until after your full retirement age, your payments will be increased by a certain percentage, depending on the year you were born.

Source: Social Security Administration