More than 47,000 millionaires collected Social Security benefits in 2010, a year when 7.2% of those collecting Social Security reported income above $100,000. Why are the rich collecting these benefits? Some argue if they paid into the system, they should be able to collect their fair share upon retirement. Or, should the well-to-do spare those funds for retired Americans who need them the most?
Some of the rich have voiced their opinions on the matter, including Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Here we’ll discuss these two and others including Warren Buffett, and the prospect of whether each chooses to collect Social Security, and why.
1. Warren Buffett
- Net worth: $90.9 billion
Warren Buffett, 87, has a net worth of $90.9 billion, and yet he collects Social Security benefits. In 2015, the Berkshire Hathaway CEO explained he has no intent to retire because he loves his job. “I’m tap dancing to work every day,” he said. However, he noted he could retire anytime he likes. “I would rather do this than anything in the world,” he said. “My Social Security check is coming every day. I don’t need this.”
Next: President Donald Trump
2. Donald Trump
- Net worth: $3.1 billion
Chances are, Donald Trump is not collecting Social Security benefits. However, at 71, he is eligible to receive his maximum amount — and even more benefits than the average American. This is because dependent children of those collecting Social Security also qualify for benefits. As long as his son Barron (currently 11) is under 18, both Barron and Melania would be eligible to receive benefits as well, if Trump were to be collecting.
In 2015, Trump was asked for his thoughts on billionaires collecting Social Security. “I would be willing to say I will not get Social Security,” he said. “As a policy, I would leave it up to the people … But the fact is that there are people that truly don’t need it, and there are many people that do need it very, very badly.”
Next: Former first lady Hillary Clinton
3. Hillary Clinton
- Net worth: $45 million
Multi-millionaire Hillary Clinton is now 70 and therefore eligible to receive full Social Security benefits. However, in 2015, when she was just 67, some in the media speculated the former first lady was already collecting benefits. This was based on comments she made on the campaign trail.
“If Clinton is collecting benefits now, she’s making a huge mistake,” Los Angeles Times reported, stating that holding out longer would increase her benefits. Whether or not she truly was collecting benefits, Clinton did state she supported the idea of the most fortunate paying more in order to help preserve Social Security.
Next: Billionaire CEO Leon Cooperman
4. Leon Cooperman
- Net worth: $3.2 billion
At 74, hedge fund CEO Leon Cooperman is in favor of higher taxes on the wealthy. While he did not say he collects Social Security benefits, he did say he would gladly give up Social Security checks, The New York Times reported in 2011. At the time, the billionaire penned an open letter to then-president Barack Obama, advocating for changes such as an increase in the Social Security retirement age (except for those working manual labor jobs).
Next: Actress Patty Duke
5. Patty Duke
- Net worth: $10 million
Actress Patty Duke, who passed away at age 69 in 2016, started collecting Social Security benefits when she was 65. For years, she did public service announcements for the Social Security Administration, encouraging retirees to collect their benefits online.
“For me, it was the right decision,” Duke commented on her decision to claim at 65. “I earned the right to those benefits after a lifetime of work, so I took them. While it’s true I’m collecting benefits, I don’t consider myself retired and I still enjoy working.”
Next: What the rich pay into Social Security
What do millionaires pay into Social Security?
In 2018, the amount any worker contributes to Social Security is 6.2% of their income, until their income exceeds $128,700. This is up from $127,200 in 2017, and as a result of this change, about 12 million people are expected to pay higher taxes. (Earnings above the $128,700 cap are not taxed for Social Security.)
Next: How much Social Security pays the rich
How much Social Security pays the rich
Since Social Security benefits are capped, rich Americans don’t receive much bigger checks than the middle-class. At full retirement age, the maximum benefit is $2,686. However, those who earn an 8% delayed-retirement credit by waiting until 70 to collect would receive a maximum of $3,547 per month.
While for most Americans, this is a nice monthly paycheck, for a billionaire it wouldn’t mean much and is likely why some choose not to collect.
Next: Should wealthy retirees be able to collect?
Should the rich be able to collect?
Social Security Works points out that since a very small percentage of Social Security is paid out to the wealthy, excluding them from the program would save little. Moreover, if the rich were excluded from receiving benefits, it would be argued they should be able to stop paying into the system to begin with, the organization points out.
Former New Jersey governor and presidential candidate Chris Christie argued that future retirees whose retirement income is above $200,000 shouldn’t be eligible for benefits. “We need to save this program … and if that means making sure that folks like Donald [Trump] and many of us … don’t get it, that’s the right thing to do,” he said in 2015.
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