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Questions new workers may have about Social Security




There are at least a couple of million teenagers out there who will be starting their first real jobs this summer. If you know one of these teenagers, a question that you may be asked is “what are my Social Security taxes all about?” Some may even ask “what is FICA?” Here is a quick primer on what any new worker needs to know about Social Security.

First, by law, employers must withhold from a worker’s paycheck Social Security taxes at the rate of 6.2 percent of gross pay. (In addition, a Medicare payroll tax of 1.45 percent of pay must also be withheld.) While usually referred to on a employee’s payroll statement as “Social Security taxes,” sometimes the deduction is labeled as “FICA taxes” which stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act, a reference to the original Social Security Act. Interestingly, for many younger workers, the Social Security taxes withheld may actually be more than is being paid in state or federal income tax. It is therefore important to understand how that money is used. By paying Social Security taxes now, they are providing for their financial future.

The taxes they pay now translate to a lifetime of protection, whether they retire or become disabled. And in the event that they die, their family (or future family) may be able to receive survivors benefits based on their work as well. And today they probably have family members – grandparents, for example – who already are enjoying Social Security benefits which their Social Security taxes help provide.

Because they are a long way from retirement, they may have a tough time appreciating the value of benefit payments that could be some 50 years distant. But they should also know that the Social Security taxes they are paying can provide valuable disability benefits. Studies do show that a 20-year-old has about a three in 10 chance of becoming disabled sometime before reaching retirement age.

Finally, if you have the opportunity to talk to any new workers about their job and Social Security, remind them that if an employer offers to bend the rules and pay them “under the table,” they should refuse. While the employee may see a few more dollars in his or her pay, the employee would not earn Social Security credits under this illegal arrangement.

Also remind new workers that they probably shouldn’t be carrying their Social Security card around with them. It’s a document that needs to be safeguarded and protected. And if they ask more questions than you can to answer, just tell them that the next time they are surfing the web, they should stop by our webpage at www.socialsecurity.gov.


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