See How Much Millennials and Other Generations Are Paying into Social Security

Today’s American workers are in a unique situation: Up to five generations might be found together under a single employer’s roof. That’s potentially a 75-year age range. People from millennials to World War II veterans have a lot to teach each other, in both the office and the break room. All these working generations also pay a pretty penny into Social Security.
For instance, workers paid $958 billion into Social Security in 2016 alone. Each employee pays 6.2% of his or her paycheck, with employers paying the same amount. Have you ever wondered what percentage of the workforce comes from each generation? Here we’ll take a look.

1. Silent generation

The silent generation lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and the Korean War. | Hulton Archive/Getty Images
  • Birth years: 1922-1945
  • Percentage of today’s workforce: 1%

A 1951 Time magazine essay dubbed this group the “silent generation” because they were more cautious than their parents. Today, there are 28.4 million Americans from this generation. The few still in the workforce are often in executive positions and advisory roles. Since most have retired, this is the currently smallest group contributing to Social Security. Many stayed at the same company for their entire careers.
Next: Baby boomers

2. Baby boomers

Woodstock was the cultural zenith of the Baby Boomer generation. |  Three Lions/Getty Images
  • Birth years: 1946-1964
  • Percentage of today’s workforce: 27%

Baby boomers got their name from an uptick in the birth rate after World War II. There are 74.1 million boomers alive today. They make up 27% of the workplace paying into Social Security, but 10,000 retire each day. Those still working tend to be in mid- to upper-management positions. They remember what it was like not to have their own computer at work, and working from home probably wasn’t an option for much of their careers.
A 2015 study by the Urban Institute estimated that a 65-year-old woman who retired in 2015 and earned an average wage over her lifetime ($47,800 in 2015 dollars) would have paid $272,000 into Social Security and would receive $322,000 in benefits.
Next: Generation X

3. Generation X

Gen Xers in their prime did things like see the Spin Doctors at Woodstock ’94. | Gabe Palacio/ImageDirect
  • Birth years: 1965-1980
  • Percentage of today’s workforce: 27%

Generation Xers were known as latch-key kids — they would come home from school to an empty house since both parents were working. Known for being independent, they were tech pioneers in the workforce and are the most entrepreneurial generation. There are 65.6 million Gen Xers alive today. Like baby boomers, they comprise 27% of the workforce paying into Social Security. Historically, Gen Xers have pushed back against boomers to advocate for a strong work/life balance.
A single Gen X woman earning $47,800 in 2015 dollars who retires in 2035 at age 65 can expect to pay $344,000 in Social Security tax and get $408,000 in benefits, the Urban Institute found.
Next: Millennials

4. Millennials

Millennials make up the bulk of the workforce. | Getty Images/ iStock
  • Birth years: 1981-1997
  • Percentage of today’s workforce: 44%

Two historians coined the term millennial in the 1991 book “Generations” which charts American history. They predicted this generation would be drastically different from the one before it. As a whole, millennials received much more parent attention than Gen Xers did. Perhaps this is why they are stereotyped as acting entitled and expecting to receive participation trophies. Many never knew life without the Internet.
Today, there are 83.1 million millennials in the U.S. In 2015, they surpassed Gen Xers to become the largest workforce generation in the U.S. They’re predicted to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025, as they continue to pay into Social Security — which the oldest millennials are expected to start collecting in about 30 years. The 2015 study estimated that a 30-year-old millennial woman earning an average wage of $47,800 in 2015 would pay $407,000 in Social Security taxes over her lifetime and get $499,000 in lifetime benefits (in 2015 dollars) if she retired at 65.
Next: Generation Z

5. Generation Z

Generation Z will be entering the workforce in large numbers in the next few years. | Bob Levey/Getty Images for H&R Block
  • Birth years: 1998 through now
  • Percentage of today’s workforce: 1%

Generation Z is the most diverse and multicultural of any generation in U.S. history. Some say that while millennials expect success, Gen Z-ers make their own. Members of this youngest group are technologically savvy, innovative thinkers, according to a description by Ad Age. The only world they know is a digitally connected one.
Generation Z is just now starting to enter the workforce. While they currently make up only around 1% of it, that number will increase to 4% by 2020. There are an estimated 72 million people in this generation.
Next: Will Social Security be around for millennials?

Social Security for millennials

man holding social security card in his hand
Social Security may not be there for millennials. | KenTannenbaum/iStock/Getty Images

As we mentioned, in a few decades millennials will be eligible to retire and claim Social Security benefits. A 2014 survey found that 51% of millennials believe Social Security won’t be there for them upon retirement. This isn’t likely the case; as long as people are working, they are paying into Social Security, and money will be disbursed.
However, it’s important to note that the Social Security trust fund is set to run out by 2034 unless lawmakers take action. This means retirees could start to receive a smaller percentage of the benefits people receive today. Millennials would do well to save 15% on their own for retirement each year.
Next: What about Generation Z?

Social Security for Generation Z

Children playing with wooden toys
Generation Z should start thinking about retirement as early as they can. | FamVeld/iStock/Getty Images

Experts give the same advice to those in Generation Z. When you’re young, you have time on your side, which translates to many years to invest money and earn interest on it.
The Social Security Administration’s current guideline is that your benefits check should replace about 40% of your working wages — and if benefits do get cut, this number will be even lower. Realistically, this generation may receive nowhere near the amount their parents and grandparents received.
Next: Will Millennials and Generation Z pay higher taxes?

The Social Security tax could go up

A Road leads directly to the United States capitol Building with green trees abutting each side of the photo on a sunny day
A future Congress could raise the Social Security tax. | Win McNamee/Getty Images

As we mentioned, the Social Security trust fund is set to run out by 2034. Congress may one day increase payroll taxes to prevent that from happening. This would ensure future retirees receive the same level of benefits that people currently get. So millennials and Generation Z workers may well be paying more than the current 6.2% (as well as any older people still working when the change happens).
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