Here’s the story: Social Security was enacted in 1935 in the midst of the Great Depression. The concern was that America’s elderly population was particularly vulnerable to the economic crisis, which saw the stock market lose nearly half its value and unemployment rates rise to over 25 percent. There were calls and movements throughout the nation for a government-enacted pension plan.
Every year from its inception up until modern day, Social Security has taken in more than it has paid out. This is because there have been more workers paying into the system than there have been retirees drawing from the system.
When Social Security was first enacted, there were more than 40 workers for each retiree collecting benefits. In recent years, this has narrowed to 3.4 workers per eligible retiree, according to a 2001 report issued by the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security. According to the White House website (www.whitehouse.gov), “By the time today’s youngest workers turn 65, there will only be 2 workers supporting each beneficiary.”
There are several factors that have led to the shift in the ratio of workers to retirees. One factor was the baby boom, which lasted from 1945 to 1964. The baby boom added lots of young workers to the nation’s workforce, but the early boomers are now beginning to retire. So the same generation that led to a surge in workers will now lead to a surge in retirees.
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