A fascinating look at Social Security’s very first beneficiary

Ida May Fuller, a lifelong Republican and high school classmate of President Calvin Coolidge, was the first beneficiary at age 65 of the new Social Security system when a check for $22.54 arrived at her home in February 1940.  This fascinating piece shows just how generous the program has been to recipients, even if few realize or acknowledge it, by profiling the very first person to get a payment.  Fuller received periodic adjustments upwards in her benefit over the years but actually opposed the 1970 increase, stating it was raised as far as it ought to go.  She noted any increase in benefits further burdened the working people who were then contributing payroll taxes.

When Social Security was enacted in 1935, the average life expectancy of American men was 60 and for women was 64 (it’s in the 80s for both today).  Fuller never married and had no children.  She certainly defied the odds by collecting over 400 monthly checks before dying in 1975 at age 100.  Fuller’s return was an astonishing 924 times what she contributed to the program.  For three years prior to retiring, she paid $24.75 of payroll taxes into Social Security.  In the 35 years after her retirement, she received $22,888.92 in benefits.  [Editor’s note: Today’s recipients still get back all payroll taxes contributed in their lives plus a nominal rate of interest in 5-6 years.]  Read the full History.com piece here.



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