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3 surprising facts about Social Security

Social Security was enacted 86 years ago and remains one of the country’s hallmark social welfare programs. But despite its popularity, it’s still misunderstood by many.

There’s more to Social Security and its benefits than just providing supplemental income to 65 million Americans who are either senior citizens, disabled, or surviving spouses.

Here are three lesser-known facts about Social Security.

Your number is all yours

(Photo: Getty Creative)
(Photo: Getty Creative) (KenTannenbaum via Getty Images)

Unlike phone numbers or bank account numbers, once a Social Security number is used, it’s never recycled, even after the original owner died.

The Social Security Administration says it has issued more than 453 million unique identification numbers and assigns about 5.5 million new numbers every year. Even at that rate, there are enough numbers to last “several generations into the future with no changes in the numbering system,” it says.

Regardless of any name changes, a number generally stays with you for life, and only in rare circumstances, like victims of identity theft or domestic violence, can apply for a new number.

Kids get benefits, too

(Photo: Getty Creative)
(Photo: Getty Creative) (MoMo Productions via Getty Images)

Benefits aren’t just for retirees and disabled workers, and their spouses. In most cases, unmarried minors whose parents are deceased, disabled, or retired can receive up to half of their parent’s full retirement or disability benefits and up to 75% of their parent’s survivors benefits.

Read more: Social Security, Medicare, and retirement benefits: How they work

Under some circumstances, the benefits can be paid to a stepchild, grandchild, step-grandchild, or adopted child.

In 2020, the government paid $2.8 billion in monthly Social Security benefits to 4 million children. These benefits help provide basic necessities for the family and helps children to finish their schooling.

Full benefits don’t kick in at 65

(Photo: Getty Creative)
(Photo: Getty Creative) (miodrag ignjatovic via Getty Images)

Based on the experience of our parents and grandparents, younger generations typically run under the assumption that the magic age of full benefit eligibility from Social Security is 65. But that’s off by two years and for now, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Zers are looking at age 67 as the time full benefits kick in.

But even if seniors file early, the Social Security Administration does allow for take-backs. Beneficiaries have 12 months after starting benefits to withdraw their applications, as long as all the money received is paid back.

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Stephanie is a reporter for Yahoo Money and Cashay, a new personal finance website. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SJAsymkos.

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