Sometimes social security is referred to as an "entitlement program," a term that describes government programs that provide financial assistance.
In reality, this is a bit of a misnomer when applied to social security. This is because social security is actually a program that workers pay into, and the money retirees receive is based on their contributions.
As stated earlier, workers contribute 6.2% of their income to social security. Your employer also contributes 6.2%. If you are self-employed, you'll contribute the entire 12.4% on your own.
If you are a high earner, you will not have to contribute the full 6.2% of your income to social security. Instead, you contribute 6.2% of the first $128,700 you make.
When you reach retirement age, your payments will be based on your 35 highest-earning years in the workforce. If you did not work for a full 35 years, non-working years will be averaged in at zero dollars in income.
That said, payments are not only impacted by what you have paid into the program. They are also adjusted for inflation on a yearly basis. This means that you could get a cost of living adjustment on your checks, even after you start collecting.