If you have a Social Security card, you’re probably curious about how your Social Security Number (SSN) was assigned. As you learn more about your Social Security card and your unique identified, you may have other questions about Social Security and your retirement benefits.
Social Security Administration has been issuing Social Security numbers since its inception in the 1930s. President Franklin D. Roosevelt championed the Social Security Act that went into law in 1935. Originally, the Act provided retirement income benefits for primary wage earners. Worker retirement age was 65 or older according to the Social Security Act.
Funds collected from working men and women then support retirement benefits, medical care, and other important programs administered by Social Security. Because SSA says at least one in seven people currently receives a Social Security retirement benefit today, it’s important to learn more about what you can expect as a Social Security beneficiary. To review your Social Security statement and access other services, sign up for My Social Security Account now.
Social Security Number: Identification
Each U.S. worker has a unique Social Security number. This identification number is issued in accordance with SSA’s proprietary numbering system.
Your Social Security number has three numbers, a dash, two numbers, a second dash, and a final series of four numbers. According to SSA, the description of this numbering is officially called enumeration:
The first three numbers of the SSN are called an “area number.” The area number refers to your geographic region. Area numbers previously represented your state of residence when you or your parents applied for your SSN. Northeast residents had the lowest area numbers and West Coast residents had the highest. Your Social Security number reflects the geographic area number system if you applied for a Social Security number before 1972.
Changes to the area number system were made in 1972. Your area number is now determined by the mail zip code on your original SSN application. If you received a SSN at birth, your area number reflects city/state zip code where you were born.
Framed by a dash on either side, the next two numbers are the “group number.” This number is assigned using SSA’s formula for each of the 50 United States. The group number alternates odd-even numbers.
Group numbers are made up of two numbers—01 to 99—and pare area numbers into smaller parts. According to SSA, the earliest group numbers were issued in odd number sequences of 01-09. Later group numbers were issued in even 10 to 98 numbers. The next group numbers were assigned between 02 to 09. The next group numbers were assigned in odd numbers 11 to 99.
The “last four” of your SSN is a unique identifier. This number is assigned from sequences 0001-9999. It’s randomly assigned by Social Security Administration. Although some myths persist about SSN assignment and racial profiles, SSA denies pairing Social Security numbers and applicant race.
Social Security Number: Social Security Tax
Social Security collects money from workers as a Social Security tax. Each employee, employer, and self-employed person must pay Social Security tax on their earnings. SSA then provides retirement benefits and support for retired beneficiaries and others who qualify.
Your retirement benefits are calculated on income earned over a lifetime and how much you paid in Social Security tax. People who earn more over the years tend to earn larger retirement benefits. The average monthly benefit to Social Security retirees is USD 1,341 in 2016.
If you’re preparing for retirement or just thinking about your retirement plan, visit your local Social Security Administration field office to discuss your entitlement. At that time, you can discuss the positive and negatives of requesting retirement benefits before or after Full Retirement Age (FRA). Social Security’s Retirement Calculator can help you prepare for discussion with SSA. Contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 with questions or to make an appointment.
After your discussion, it’s important to check the information Social Security collects about your income and earnings credits: