Chris Stein, CFP®
What’s Up With Your Social Security Number?
Prior to June, 2011 Social Security numbers were assigned based on your physical location, or more specifically based on the zip code for the mailing address on your application for a Social Security number. Your nine digit SS number is broken into three groups of digits, one group of 3, a group of 2 and a final group of 4 digits. The first 3 digits are your “Area Number” and are based on your zip code. The next group of 2 numbers is called your “Group Number” and was set up to segment your area into groups for easier administration. The final group of 4 digits is just assigned sequentially within your group until they assign all 9999 then they generate a new group in your area.
Running Out of Numbers
This methodology was becoming problematic in areas with high population. They were expecting to run out of numbers in those areas while other areas of the country with small populations had an excess of available numbers. For this reason beginning in June of 2011 they changed to a method of simply assigning randomized 9 digit numbers. Therefore SS numbers assigned since June, 2011 do not tell you anything about where that person resided when they applied for a SS number.
Not For Identification?
Another interesting thing to point out is the change in wording on your SS card that appeared on cards issued between 1946 and 1972. Cards from that era had “For Social Security Purposes – Not For Identification” printed on them. Many people took this to mean that the government prohibited SS numbers from being used for anything other than official Social Security business. This is not true. This was simply to point out that the card itself should not be used as identification since it was so easy to get a card. Unlike today it used to be as simple as requesting a card at the Social Security office. Now due to the more stringent requirements to get a card it is sometimes used as an actual identification document.
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