At 22, Mackenzie Millan of Los Angeles “has even greater doubts about whether Social Security will be a good deal for her. ‘The money that I put aside now, it’s not like that money is going to be waiting for me,’ she said. ‘That money is going toward someone else.’” Apparently Millan didn’t understand that her taxes paid today guarantee her benefits in the future.

The AP story presents a cautionary tale for journos. If the press wants to help the public understand a popular program that’s often misinterpreted, thinking twice before passing along the old money’s worth argument is a good place to begin.

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.