Even though the Social Security system was written into law in 1935, payroll taxes weren’t collected to pay for the system until 1937. Originally, you had the choice of taking a lump sum or monthly payout. In the first 3 years, everyone took the lump sum, with Ernest Ackerman being the first American to receive a lump sum payment in 1937. He received a total of 17 cents after paying only 5 cents into the program!
The first monthly check was issued to Ida May Fuller of Ludlow, VT. Fuller paid a total of $24.75 into the system throughout 3 years (1937, 1938, and 1939). The first monthly payment she received was for $22.54, and by her second check, she had already received more out of Social Security than she had paid into the system. Over her lifetime, she collected just under $23,000 in total Social Security benefits (after having only contributed $24.75) – a return of over 92,000%!
Sourced from: Social Security Administration