Holiday gift ideas for you


My holiday gift guide doesn’t include a box of chocolates or tickets to a Caribbean cruise. After all, this is a boring old Social Security column, so my gift suggestions relate to that government pension program.

Near the top of my list is my absolute favorite Social Security publication. It’s called “Fast Social Security Facts and Figures,” and it’s full of interesting and useful information about the program. And the good news is that they squeeze all that information into a booklet. The 2022 edition is only 43 pages long.

Go to to find the booklet on the Social Security Administration website. You can download the whole publication, but if you’re an old-fashioned guy like me, you might want a paper copy of it. I’m not exactly sure how to do that. There is a contact number and email address. I left a message asking for the book but haven’t heard back yet.

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The first few pages of the book provide general information about the various Social Security programs. But the rest is filled with fascinating little bits of information. (A word of warning: I mean “fascinating” for a boring old Social Security guy like me.) I’ll spend the rest of the column sharing some of this data.

Last year, 8.1 million new applications for Social Security benefits were filed. That’s about 27,000 new claims filed every business day of the year. (If you’re wondering why you’re having trouble getting an appointment at a Social Security office or reaching the SSA’s 800 number, that’s part of the reason.)

Of those more than 8 million new claims, 59% related to retirement benefits; 31% were for survivor benefits; and 10% was for disability benefits.

Another chart shows that claims for retirement benefits have risen steadily over the years, but have really risen since 2005 (when the baby boomers retired). But interestingly, claims for disability benefits peaked around 2010 and have declined since then. Perhaps that is an indication that baby boomers are the first generation of seniors who take better care of themselves (physically and mentally) and are therefore less likely to file for disability benefits.

I like a little pie chart in the booklet that breaks down the total Social Security population by types of benefits. Seventy-three percent receive a pension benefit; 12% receive disability benefits; 6% are the spouses and children of people receiving retirement and disability benefits; and 9% receive a survivor benefit.

Another pie chart shows the age distribution of Social Security beneficiaries. Nine percent are 85 and older; 25% are 75 to 84 years old; 44% are 65 to 74 years old; 7% are 62 to 64 years old; 11% are 18 to 61 years old; and 4% are under the age of 18.

This statistic may be surprising to some: There are more women who receive Social Security benefits than men. Fifty-five percent of all beneficiaries are women and 45% are men.

Here is the gender breakdown by benefit category. Of all women receiving social security, 71% receive a pension benefit; 12% receive disability benefits; 11% receive a widow’s benefit; and 6% receive benefits as the spouse of a retired or disabled person.

Of all men receiving Social Security, 84% receive a retirement benefit; 14% receive disability benefits; and 2% receive benefits as a widower or spouse of a retired or disabled person.

Another chart in the booklet shows how times have changed since Social Security first began paying monthly benefits in 1940. At the time, only 12% of pension benefits were paid to women. Today women make up 51% of all pensioners.

The average monthly retirement benefit paid to men last year was $1,838, compared to $1,484 paid to women. But, as might be expected, women on average receive higher spousal and survivor benefits.

Another indication of how the role of women in the workforce, and in turn in the Social Security population, has changed over the years is a graph showing that in 1960, 57% of all women over the age of 62 years only received benefits as a dependent spouse. to a spouse’s social security account. Today, only 18% of women fall into that category. Twenty-four percent of current female beneficiaries over 62 have “dual entitlements,” meaning they get some benefits at their own job and some benefits as a spouse from a spouse’s account; 58% of women only receive their own pension benefits.

Of the nearly 3 million children receiving Social Security benefits, the majority, approximately 1.3 million, receive survivor benefits from the Social Security record of a deceased father or mother. Another 1.1 million are the minor children of someone receiving disability benefits. The rest are the children of pensioners.

My favorite section of “Fast Facts and Figures” helps clarify (using easy-to-understand charts and graphs) the most misunderstood part of Social Security: program funding. With what little space I have left, I’ll just share this. Of the more than $1 trillion in program revenue last year, 90.1% came from payroll taxes; 6.4% came from interest earned on the trust fund holding companies; and 3.5% came from taxation of Social Security benefits. And where has all that money gone? Payment of Social Security benefits took up 99%; 0.6% went to administrative costs; and 0.4% went to the Railway Pension Fund. (There is a small interrelationship between Social Security beneficiaries and the railroads.)

And before I wrap up today’s column, I’d like to suggest a few more Social Security-related gift ideas for the holiday season. I’m talking about my own books: “Social Security: Simple and Smart” and “Social Security: 100 Myths and 100 Facts.” The first offers 10 fact sheets that will answer all your Social Security questions. The second dispels many of the myths that confuse so many Americans about our nation’s basic social insurance program. You can get both books for less than $10 each from Amazon and other booksellers.

Social Security retirement age could change to 67, experts fear it won’t stop there

If you have a question about Social Security, Tom Margenau has a book with all the answers. It’s called ‘Social Security: Simple and Smart’. You can find the book at Or look it up on Amazon or other bookstores. Visit to learn more about him, read past columns, and view features from other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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