By the numbers: Social Security

President Roosevelt signs the 1935 Social Security Act into law. Lawmakers now discuss cutting defense and entitlement spending.

Story highlights

  • 222,488 -- Number receiving Social Security benefits in 1940, less than 1% of the population
  • 56 million -- Number receiving Social Security benefits in 2011, about 18% of the population
  • $778 billion -- Expected amount that Social Security will pay out in benefits in 2012
  • 40,000 -- People who claimed SSN 078-05-1120 after finding it on a sample wallet insert

Retiring baby boomers are cashing out on their decades of paying into Social Security. The problem? Social Security is no longer running a surplus, worrying many that the entitlement program is in trouble.

In 2036, the Social Security Administration reports that it will no longer have enough money to fully pay out scheduled benefits. Solutions put forth by President Obama's bipartisan fiscal commission, on which Republican vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan served, include raising the retirement age and reducing benefits for wealthier Americans.

As the debate over how to save Social Security continues, we look at the program by the numbers:

7.8 million - Number of elderly people in the United States in 1934. Approximately 50% of them lacked enough income to support themselves. Only 5% of retired people were receiving pensions.

1935 -- Social Security is signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The first payroll deductions begin in 1937.

Ryan's controversial Social Security plan he doesn't discuss

222,488 -- Number of Americans receiving Social Security benefits in 1940, less than 1% of the total population.

$22.71 -- The average monthly benefit for a retired worker in 1940, the first year that benefits were paid monthly.

56 million -- Number of Americans receiving Social Security benefits in 2011, approximately 18% of the total population.

36 million -- Number of those receiving Social Security in 2012 who are retired workers. The other 20 million are surviving spouses, disabled people and dependents.

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$1,234 -- The average monthly benefit for a retired worker in 2011.

$1,323 -- The average monthly retired worker benefit for a man in 2010.

$1,023 -- The average monthly retired worker benefit for a woman in 2010.

12% -- Percentage of retired worker Social Security beneficiaries who were women in 1940.

49% -- Percentage of retired worker Social Security beneficiaries who were women in 2010.

86% -- The percentage of single people over 65 who received Social Security benefits in 2009.

43% -- The percentage of single people over 65 who relied on Social Security for 90% or more of their income in 2009.

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$778 billion -- Expected amount that Social Security will pay out in benefits in 2012.

$8.7 trillion+ -- Amount of money that has been paid into the Social Security Trust Fund since its inception.

$7.4 trillion+ -- Amount of money that has been paid out in benefits since the 1930s.

2036 -- The year Social Security Trust Fund will no longer have enough money to fully pay out scheduled benefits.

Just for fun

$22,888.92 -- Amount of Social Security benefits received by Ida Fuller of Vermont. She was the first person to receive monthly benefits, beginning in 1940. She died in 1975 at the age of 100.

$24.75 -- The amount Ida Fuller paid into Social Security during three years of work in the late 1930s.

$0.17 -- The amount of Social Security benefits paid to Ernest Ackerman, the first person to apply for benefits. He retired one day after the program began and paid a total of $.05 cents into Social Security.

001-01-0001 -- The lowest Social Security number ever assigned, given to a New Hampshire woman in 1936.

23 -- The age of John David Sweeney Jr. of New York when he received the nation's first Social Security account in 1936. Sweeney died at the age of 61 and never received any Social Security benefits.

40,000 -- Number of people who claimed the Social Security number 078-05-1120, when they found it printed on a sample insert in wallets sold at Woolworths.

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