social security

The U.S. government gives money to retired people (and a few other qualifying groups) through a program called Social Security. Here’s how it works:

When you have a job, the government takes money out of your paycheck and gives it to the Social Security program, which then gives the money to people who have retired (or can’t work for some other reason). If the program still exists when you retire, you’ll get money from people who are still working.

You may have noticed that the name of the program is not very descriptive. There’s nothing in it about taxes or retirees. Instead, we get the words “social” (friendly!) and “security” (protection!).

In general, people who like Social Security call it Social Security, and people who don’t like it call it “entitlement,” a term that also doesn’t have anything in it about taxes or retirees.

There are two competing stories here: 1. Social Security is a friendly way to protect old people. 2. Spoiled old people are taking your money because they didn’t bother to save any of their own (or because they’re greedy).

When you hear two very different stories that are supposedly about the same thing, it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about the subject. Sometimes one of the stories is clearly right and sometimes they’re both wrong.