Social security provides an invaluable source of income for millions of retired Americans, and the future you may very well rely heavily on the program you are paying into, little by little, with every paycheck. However, what if your social security payments aren’t so little? What of the cases in which they have grown to an amount that, simply put, just doesn’t seem fair? Here are some things to consider:

Humble beginnings. When the social security program first took root in 1937, employee contributions were extremely small–only one percent of their income, to be exact. Employers were required to match that one percent, making a total of two percent. Additionally, there was a cap to how much salary could be taxed for social security. The maximum amount of income that could be taxed, for anyone, was $3000. Therefore, the maximum amount of social security payments any one person could make per year was a very modest $30.

Social security payments today. Over the decades, employee contributions to social security have gradually increased–some say to the point that they’re now excessive. Today, the government siphons 6.2 percent of every paycheck into the social security program, and the taxable salary cap amount is up to $113,700. This equates to roughly $7050 annually in social security payments, a startling increase from 1937’s humble $30 amount, to the tune of nearly 235 percent.

Why such an increase? One of the biggest reasons the government has had to increase the social security tax to such an extent is that today’s demographics are much different than in previous decade. Today, there are 2.9 workers (or social security tax payers) for every one person who is receiving social security benefits. Back when the social security program was new, there were 159.4 social security tax payers for each person receiving benefits. There are simply many more retired people to support today than there were decades ago, and American employees (as well as the companies that employee them) must carry that burden.

What does the future hold? Unfortunately, the demographics will only continue to change for the worse, in terms of retiree to worker ratio. It seems inevitable that social security taxes will have to go up and/or the salary tax limit will have to be increased accordingly. However, some lawmakers are lobbying to lower social security benefit amounts, instead.

It appears that there really is no clear answer in regards to whether or not social security payments are fair. What it comes down to is whether or not the American taxpayers should be forced into surrendering so much of their income for the social security program, and this is an issue that has been dividing Americans for many years.

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