In a recent commentary, I mentioned that many radio listeners object to the fact that Social Security is considered an entitlement. After all, they argue, they paid into Social Security and Medicare. Now they are receiving a partial refund of money they paid into the system. While that is true for some people, it is not true for many others. Let’s look at the numbers.
A credible analysis was done a few years ago by the Urban Institute. Their researchers figured out what people turning 65 in various years have already “paid into” the system and then calculated what they can expect to “take out” after they reach age 65. Of course, the actual numbers will vary based upon family income, marital status, and longevity.
In most cases, retiring Americans will receive much more from Social Security and Medicare than they put into the system. Whenever I mention this on radio, callers are shocked to hear that and often don’t believe it. Here are some numbers from the Urban Institute.
A two-earner couple receiving an average wage would have paid $722,000 into Social Security and Medicare. They could be expected to take out $966,000 in benefits. In other words, they would be paid about one-third more in benefits than they paid in taxes.
A one-income earner couple earning an average wage will pay about $361,000 into Social Security and Medicare and receive about $854,000 in benefits. That is almost two and half times more in benefits than were paid in taxes.
The conclusion is clear. In most cases, Americans who retire will actually receive more from Social Security and Medicare combined than they put into the system.