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Social Security facts, figures
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The Social Security Administration recently redesigned its website: I think the new version is cleaner and more professional looking. The most popular services are now very easy to find. I'm talking about things like the retirement benefit estimators — calculators you can use to figure out what to expect from Social Security when you retire. And when you are ready to sign on the bottom line, you are just one click away from filing for benefits online.

But I think some of the most fascinating parts of the website are not the services provided, but rather the wealth of news, information and statistics that are offered. I've mentioned before in this column that if you want to find helpful information about Social Security programs and benefits in relatively simple-to-understand language, click the "Publications" link near the middle of the homepage. SSA produces more than 100 pamphlets and fact sheets covering all the different Social Security programs.

For those of you who are number crunchers and/or are just curious about the history and financing of Social Security, the Social Security Actuary's portion of the website is just for you. At the top of the homepage, pull down the menu under "Our Agency" and then click on "Actuarial Resources."

I was perusing the website today and came across an online version of a booklet that used to be one of my favorite resources. It is chock-full of research and statistics about many different facets of Social Security. The booklet is called, "Fast Facts and Figures About Social Security." You can find it by pulling down the "Our Agency" menu and then clicking on "Research, Statistics and Policy Analysis." Believe it or not, it's really a fun book filled with so many interesting and useful tidbits about Social Security. I'm going to share some of that data with you today.

In 2012, Social Security took in $840 billion in revenues. Those revenues came from three sources:

—83.8 percent came in the form of payroll and self employment taxes

—13 percent of the total came from interest earned on treasury notes in the Social Security trust funds

—3.2 percent came from the taxation of Social Security benefits

So how was that money spent? As you might guess, the vast majority of Social Security revenue goes to pay monthly benefits. Here is the breakdown of expenses:

—92.2 percent was used to pay monthly benefits

—6.5 percent stayed in the trust funds

—0.8 percent went to administrative expenses

—0.5 percent went to the Railroad Retirement Board. (Many railroad workers spend part of their careers at Social Security covered jobs and are paid their Social Security benefits through the RRB.)

As of December 2012, there were 56,759,000 people getting Social Security benefits. The beneficiary pool can be broken down this way:

—36,720,000 retired workers — 65 percent of the total

—2,893,000 dependents (spouses and children) of retired workers — 5 percent

—8,827,000 disabled workers — 15 percent

—2,063,000 dependents of disabled workers — 4 percent

—6,256,000 survivors (widows, widowers and children) — 11 percent

Here is the age breakdown of Social Security beneficiaries:

—10 percent were 85 and older

—22 percent were 75 to 84

—38 percent were 65 to 74

—9 percent were 62 to 64

—15 percent were 18 to 61

—6 percent were under 18

Of all adults receiving Social Security benefits, 55 percent are women and 45 percent are men. Here is a breakdown of the kinds of benefits received by men:

—79 percent of men received retirement benefits

—20 percent of men received disability benefits

—1 percent of men received dependent husband or widower's benefits

And here is a breakdown of the kinds of benefits received by women:

—63 percent of women received retirement benefits

—15 percent of women received disability benefits

—15 percent received widow's benefits

—7 percent received dependent wife's benefits

Finally, here are some statistics about kids and Social Security. I've heard complaints about the number of children of retirees getting benefits. But they make up just a fraction of the total. There are 3.4 million children getting Social Security benefits. Here is the breakdown:

—1.7 million children of disabled workers — 50 percent

—1.5 million children of deceased workers — 49 percent

—342,000 children of retirement workers — 1 percent

If you have a Social Security question, Tom Margenau has the answer. Contact him at To find out more about Tom Margenau and to read past columns and see features from other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at