According to an analysis by The Associated Press, people retiring today are part of the first generation of workers who have paid more in Social Security taxes during their careers than they will receive in benefits after they retire. It’s a historic shift that will only get worse for future retirees.
If you retired in 1960, you could expect to get back seven times more in benefits than you paid in Social Security taxes, and more if you were a low-income worker, as long you made it to age 78 for men and 81 for women. As recently as 1985, workers at every income level could retire and expect to get more in benefits than they paid in Social Security taxes, though they didn’t do quite as well as their parents and grandparents.
Not anymore. A married couple retiring last year, after both spouses earned average lifetime wages, paid about $598,000 in Social Security taxes during their careers. They can expect to collect about $556,000 in benefits if the man lives to 82 and the woman lives to 85, according to a 2011 study by the Urban Institute, a Washington think tank.