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The numbers don't lie

Published December 22. 2012 09:02AM

Dear Editor:

I'm usually good at sitting on my hands when I read something that confuses (whether intentionally or not) the facts, but I nearly fell out of my chair when I read Bob Urban's "Thoughts" from 12/15 on Social Security. At first glance, I thought it was a light-hearted, hardly-factual account on the benefit that our government pays to those of age, but when he started with "Google it - it's a fact," I got a little ruffled, and decided to take the challenge.

So here's the facts, from the government's own public records. To borrow a line from Mr. Urban, "Google it - it's a fact." If you retired in 2011, at the age of 65, having started working at the age of 18, and earned the "Average Per Capita Income" yearly per the Census records, here's how the numbers play out. Sorry, Mr. Urban, but the facts don't lie.

In 47 years of work, you would have earned $644,426. Again, make a spreadsheet, it only takes a minute. Then figure in Social Security taxes (including the employer contribution). The 15% tax has only been in place since the late 1980's, so again, plug the real numbers (again they're public record). Here you would have paid $89,184 in Social Security taxes, not the $180,000 arbitrarily claimed in the original article

Now, according to Mr. Urban, and I'll take his word for it, the average

Social Security benefit recipient receives $1,230/month, or $14,760. A quick check and taking $14,760 annually from your $89,184 and you'd be flat broke before age 72. The average life expectancy in the US today is 83 for males, and 85 for females. So, men, you'd be living off of a "benefit" for 11 years or so.

I know Mr. Urban meant well with his article. I know many seniors who rally the "it's our money, we paid for it, and we were promised it" call. And to some degree they're right. I fully believe they're entitled to the monies they paid in, but that's where it should end.

The true purpose of the Social Security Act of 1935 was to provide for those who were no longer able to care for themselves. It was never meant to be used as a pension fund. The average life expectancy in 1935 was 61.7 and the payout age was 65. Most people never even collected the benefit. Today, most Americans can bet on living nearly a quarter of their life on Social Security.

The numbers don't lie. We're going broke. I'm 30 years old, and I will never receive a dime of the money I've paid into Social Security, and I'm okay with that. Mr. Urban, be thankful for that "benefit" you receive at the beginning of each month, because there are millions of us writing those checks that we will never see ourselves.

Zachary Znyder


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