The old codger of domestic programs, the Social Security Administration (SSA), turns 67 this month. With more than 45 million currently receiving Social Security benefits (and more than 175 million who have benefited from the income it provides), there's national pressure for the administration to take its vitamins and exercise at least 15 minutes a day.
For those titillated by SSA minutiae, read on. Those weary workers who just want to know what's comin' to them, skip to the final paragraph.
You might think that the first Social Security card issued would contain the lowest nine-digit number possible. Au contraire, mon worker bee. That'd be too straightforward for government work. The first card issued, with Social Security number (SSN) 055-09-0001, belonged to shipping clerk John D. Sweeney, Jr., age 23, of New Rochelle, N.Y. Sweeney died of a heart attack in 1974 at the age of 61 without ever receiving Social Security benefits. His widow, however, received benefits based on his work until her death in 1982.
The lowest possible SSN (001-01-0001) was actually issued to Grace D. Owen of Concord, N.H. She was the first applicant from New Hampshire, the state where then-Social Security Board Chairman John G. Winant resided. (He declined to have the SSN registered to him.)
The most abused SSN of all time is 078-05-1120. In 1938, the vice president and treasurer of wallet manufacturer E.H. Ferree Co. thought it would be clever to use a sample Social Security card to promote its product for display purposes in department stores across the country. He used the actual SSN of his secretary, Hilda Schrader Whitcher. By 1943, 5,755 people were using Hilda's number. Eventually, more than 40,000 people reported her SSN as their own -- 12 people as late as 1977.
- And finally, if you want to know what's in it for you, get a handle on your retirement income with the SSA's benefit calculators. Based on the administration's own rules, if the SSA can keep working until its 70th birthday, it'll boost its own retirement kitty.