Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Michael. Michael Wonders, “What is a social security number?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Michael!

As a human being, there are a few features that make you unique. Your DNA and your fingerprints are unlike anyone else’s in the world. They identify you as you.

If you’re an American, there’s something else that’s unique which follows you around your whole life. It’s a set of nine digits known as your Social Security Number (SSN), and your SSN differs from everyone else’s.

Social Security is a U.S. government program that got its start with the Social Security Act of 1935 (formerly known as the Economic Security Act). After they made needed plans, these taxes and payments began in January 1937.

It is a simple program. As you work during your life, you and your employer pay taxes into the Social Security system. The government then uses that money to pay these earned benefits to qualified recipients. Experts believe that about 176 million workers pay into the system to provide payments for about 65 million people.

Today, older Americans who have reached retirement age, people who are disabled, survivors of workers who have died, and their dependents receive benefits. While many people think of Social Security as just a retirement program, it actually extends aid to a many more people.

Also, the government never planned for Social Security to be the only money a person had at retirement. To live well, experts suggest you also have other sources of income, such as private savings and investment accounts.

Early in creating the Social Security program, the people in charge of records found they needed an easy way to track both taxes and payments for every worker. Names and addresses were not unique enough or changed too often.

The nine-digit SSN started in 1936 for record-keeping purposes. This number is now used throughout the public and private sector for many purposes.

To date, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has issued over 453 million SSNs. Nearly every legal resident of the United States has one, and most of us get one as soon as we’re born. They assign around five million new SSNs each year.

The format of the Social Security Number is AAA-BB-CCCC. Each section had a different purpose. AAA was an area number, BB was a group number, and CCCC was a serial number. In 2011, the SSA started issuing random, unused numbers instead of the system they used before.

Standards: CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.5, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.4, CCRA.L.5, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.3,CCRA. CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.6, C3.D2.Civ.3, C3.D2.Civ.5, C3.D2.Civ.6, C3.D2.C3.Civ.14, D2.Eco.10

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