How Did American Social Security Come About?


If you’re going into retirement these days, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’ll be able to collect social security benefits. However, that wasn’t always the case. So, why was social security implemented, and how has it changed over the years?

How was Social Security Founded?

The economic times were darker than they have ever been in America before or since. It was the height of the Great Depression, and the average American was just barely getting by — if they were getting by at all. Franklin D. Roosevelt founded the Social Security Administration in 1935, and the revolutionary legislation gained popularity right away as it breathed new life into a dismal economy.

Pertaining to this act, FDR stated, “Young people have come to wonder what would be their lot when they came to old age. The man with a job has wondered how long the job would last. This Social Security measure gives at least some protection to thirty millions of our citizens who will reap direct benefits through unemployment compensation, through old-age pensions and through increased services for the protection of children and the prevention of ill health.”

Has the Lower Limit of Earnings Required to Collect Social Security Changed Over Time?

Early on, it was possible to collect social security no matter what your earnings were, but there currently is a lower limit. This is calculated with a work credit system, and this amount has been increased over time due to inflation. According to Wendy Connick, one earns social security credits though anything that counts as wages: salary, commissions, tips, vacation pay, and severance pay.

What About People Who Suffer from a Disability?

Social security is available to people who suffer from disabilities, but this program has changed over time. There are two social security programs for people with disabilities, and they are SSI and SSDI. According to Joel H. Schwartz, “SSDI is a federal government program that provides financial support to those who are no longer able to work. If you meet certain work requirements and have a medical or emotional problem that will keep you out of work for twelve months or more, you can apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.” On the other hand, SSI (supplemental security income) is available to all individuals who suffer from a disability whether they have a work history or not.

SSI is a fixed amount that changes each year to adjust to inflation. Not only can adults without a work history receive SSI, but it’s even available to children who suffer from a severe disability.

If an individual is receiving social security disability benefits or supplemental security income benefits, it’s possible to do a certain amount of work as long as it is not considered gainful employment. However, if an individual earns more than a certain amount, their benefits are cut off or reduced, and the limit for earned income has changed over time to reflect inflation. There also is a limit on earned income for seniors who are collecting social security, but pensions are exempt.


Overall, social security has been a highly beneficial program, and it’s likely to help millions more seniors in the future. While the program has been around for many years, there was a time when social security did not exist and was not even being considered yet. There are many ways that older Americans prepare for their lives in retirement, including retirements funds, investments in stocks, and personal savings. According to Guaranteed Issue Life, seniors will also be interested in the benefits of life insurance. And while all of those are highly important, elderly Americans are always recommended to look into social security.

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