For the average retiree, Social Security is worth $225,000, according to a study by a nonprofit think tank.
The National Academy of Social Insurance came up with that figure by considering how much it would cost to buy comparable benefits from a private insurer.
The average monthly benefit for retirees is $1,045, although that amount varies depending on how long a person works and how much they earn. A 65-year-old who wanted to ensure that amount of income would have to pay $225,000, said the nonpartisan group.
The value of disability benefits is even higher, at $414,000, representing the lifelong earnings of a disabled 30-year-old worker with a spouse and two kids. Social Security also provides life insurance, and the value of that for the same family would be $433,000.
For retirees, Social Security provides over 90 percent of income for 42 percent of single people over 65 and 22 percent of married couples, and the percentages are even higher for minority groups.
For African-Americans, for example, 54 percent of singles and a third of married couples get almost all their retirement income from Social Security, said the group in a report that included the findings of 12 nonprofits funded by the Ford Foundation.
For Native Americans, 61 percent of singles and a quarter of married couples rely on Social Security. And for Latinos, the figures are 62 percent for singles, and 37 percent for married couples.