Social Security and you

Senior Correspondent Mike Causey is taking a sick day. This Federal Report column originally ran on Feb. 9, 2017.

When the first Social Security check was sent out in 1940, it went to a 66-year-old Vermont woman who had paid into the system for only two years. At that time, the average life expectancy for women was 65.2, while the average expiration date for an American male was 60.8 years. Good thinking, Congress!

The woman who got the first benefit check, Ida May Fuller,  was born in 1874. And she really made a monkey out of statisticians and legislators who thought relatively few would collect benefits for any lengthy period of time. Despite the experts and the tables, she lived to be 100 years old, collecting benefits for a lot longer than anybody expected. She collected benefits for more than 30 years.

That was rare then, not so much today — another good reason to plan your retirement carefully, since you could be retired longer than you worked.

During her time under Social Security, Fuller paid a total of $24.75 into the system. That was on an annual salary of $2,484.00, which toward the end of the Great Depression was good money. Especially in Ludlow, Vermont, where, incidentally, she went to grade school with Calvin Coolidge,  who wound up being president of the United States.

As for Fuller, after paying $24.75 to the system over two years, her first Social Security check was for $22.54. This could be a clue as to why so many people are worried about the solvency of the system.

While a lot of people under Social Security (the two main civil service retirement systems) talk about their benefits being “their money,” it isn’t for long. Lots of people, though not as long-lived as Fuller, collect benefits long after they have exceeded their contributions to the program. But nobody received a return like Fuller.

Just as Fuller is (or rather, was) a good example of the misleading quality of averages that tell you something, while at the same time not very much. Life expectancy averages are just that. Averages. And they vary (a lot) state by state.

Hawaii, Minnesota, Utah and Connecticut, in that order, have the highest life expectancy, all above 80 years. Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and South Carolina rank at the bottom of the Long Livers Club. If the District of Columbia ever achieves statehood, it would be tied with South Carolina according to the stats. In the metro Washington area, Virginia (79) ranks 28th, Maryland ranks 35th, while West Virginia is number 46 at age 75.4.

Want to see how your state (home and current residence) rates? Click here. Then maybe go join a gym.

Or move!!

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Michael O’Connell

Austrian ski jumper Stefan Kraft set the ski flying world record with his March, 18, 2017 jump of 253.5 meters (832 feet) in Vikersund, Norway.

Source: Wikipedia