No, you did not pay for YOUR Social Security benefits‼️

There is a widespread notion that your Social Security benefits are based on the payroll taxes you (and your employer) pay into the system.

That is not true‼️

The taxes are just taxes like any other taxes, they just appear related to your benefits. The benefit formula is governed by the Social Security law which can be changed by Congress independent of tax changes.

Keep in mind:

  • Many people collect Social Security never having paid any taxes
  • Your benefits do not cease after you have collected an amount equal to the taxes you paid
  • After your initial benefits are determined, they increase based on the effects of future COLAs
  • Payroll taxes are only a portion of Social Security funding
  • Multiple spouses can collect full benefits based on the earnings of an ex-spouse.
  • An individual pays in taxes only a small portion of the benefits they – and dependents – are likely to collect over a lifetime.
  • If the Social Security trust is depleted, taxes will be sufficient to pay only 75-77% of earned benefits.


  1. Must disagree on your first statement not being true. The definition of base on the phrasal verb base something on/upon something is ‘ ​[usually passive] to use an idea, a fact, a situation, etc. as the point from which something can be developed’. So SS does use of FICA wages as a component of the formula used to determine our benefits. Though I do agree with your point in general. SS is not a savings account.


    1. Using the wages subject to SS taxes as the basis for the eventual benefits is not basing the benefit on the taxes paid for all the reasons i stated.


      1. RD – Every time I tell people that they did not pay for their SS benefits, and show them the math, they still say but I earned it. My 92 year old mother has collected over $200,000 in SS benefits. She worked minimum wage jobs from 1948 to 1995. Starting at 50 cents per hour and ending at $4.25 in 1995. I know not much was paid in FICA taxes, benefits equal about 10 times or more than the taxes paid. I started SS benefits at 62 in 2018, and have collected $78,580 so far. My total FICA taxes paid by myself and employers was $86,000, adjusted for inflation in 2018 dollars. So next year I will have all the taxes back. If I live to age 84, my life expectancy, an additional $319,872 not counting future COLAs will be paid to me. That is a great return, no matter how you look at it. Like I have said before the Social Security system is the best program for keeping retirees above the poverty level. I know it could be improved, but there does not seem to be the political will to do anything at this time. I am sure the politicians will wait until the coming shortage happens before they do anything.


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