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For many of the 36 million Americans who are sixty-five and older, Social Security is the primary source of retirement income. Social Security is the first resource that most Americans turn to when saving for retirement; however, most younger Americans, who will not face retirement for many years, will not have access to the benefits of the Social Security program, at least not in its present form.

The Social Security program was designed to be a pass-through account; this means that the taxes you pay for Social Security (through the Federal Insurance Contribution Act, or FICA) are used to pay benefits to those that are currently retired, disabled, widowed, or orphaned. Because there are currently more people paying into Social Security than there are people receiving Social Security benefits, the tax reserves are maintained in interest-earning government bonds held by the Social Security Trust Fund. There was no investment or savings component to Social Security when it was originally set up because the government assumed that there would always be enough people in the working generation to pay for the retired generation’s benefits.

Social Security should be the first component of your retirement plan. To fully understand how Social Security can benefit you, you must understand what Social Security is, what Social Security does, and how your benefits will be calculated. You must also realize that the program is in transition and that you should include other retirement resources in your retirement plan accordingly.


Now that you have completed this section, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Can you describe how the Social Security program works?
  2. Can you describe the benefits of the Social Security program?
  3. Can you answer frequently asked questions about Social Security?
  4. Can you describe the future of Social Security?

If you can answer yes to each of these questions, you are ready to move on to the next section!


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