NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How Many Years Must Retirees Receive Benefits To Get Back Social Security Taxes?

July 26, 2001

One way to the think of the return on taxes paid into Social Security is to consider how many years one must receive benefits before getting that money back. A table in the interim report of President Bush's Social Security Commission shows how long one must live to get back the money paid in, says former Gov. Pete du Pont (R-Del.).

  • According to the report, for men retiring in 2001 and thereafter, the number of years an average earner must collect Social Security benefits just to get back what he paid in exceeds his life expectancy.
  • Women retiring after 2010 will have to collect benefits for longer than their life expectancy to break even.
  • And for today's 35 year olds, workers paying the maximum tax into Social Security and retiring in 2030 would have to live past age 110 simply to get back what they had paid in.

For black Americans the news is even worse; because of their shorter life expectancies they will on average receive $21,000 less in benefits over their lifetimes.

Source: Pete du Pont (policy chairman, National Center for Policy Analysis), "A Lousy Investment," Outside The Box,, July 25, 2001.

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