Social Security is a topic with differing perspectives, depending on what you read or which television program you watch. Some experts believe the program needs a few adjustments, while others will proclaim the program needs massive reform.
Let’s break down some facts of the program and debunk a few myths:
Approximately 69 million Americans currently collect some form of Social Security, disability, or survivor benefit. The system is simple. People in the present-day workforce are paying the benefits for present-day retirees.
Myth: It’s Only a retirement program; Only for you
The Social Security program offers not only retirement benefits, but also survivor and disability benefits. The program provides protection against long-term disability. It’s also a source of support for your family in the event of your untimely death.
Your retirement benefit is based on your average earnings over the entirety of your working career. Obviously, higher lifetime earnings mean higher benefits. Age is also a factor. The date when you decide to start receiving these benefits will affect the amount you will receive.
Myth: Most of your retirement income will be covered by Social Security
Social Security does not cover the entirety of your retirement income. It’s an important piece but it was never meant to be the lone source of income for people in retirement. As many people note, the program is flawed, so younger and wealthier individuals should expect Social Security to look different when the time comes for their retirement.
Demographic factors are highlighting the issues many have with Social Security. One such factor is the decreasing birth rate, coupled with the increasing numbers of retirees. A major cause for concern. Eventually, this will produce fewer people in the workforce paying the benefits for those future retirees. Simply put, there won’t be enough money to go around. Even now, Social Security is already paying out more money than what comes in. Estimates have Social Security paying 100% of scheduled benefits until the fund reserves are depleted in 2033.
Myth: Social Security is going bankrupt
Yes, the program is facing many challenges to its solvency, but it is far from going bankrupt. As long as there’s a workforce paying into the program’s funds, there will be benefits for retirees. There’s still time to make adjustments.
There have been many proposals to help cure some of the programs ailments. Here are a few suggestions:
- Raise the payroll tax
- Raise the ceiling on wages subjected to the payroll tax
- Raise the retirement age beyond 67
- Allow people to invest their current Social Security taxes into personal retirement account
- Reduce future benefits
- Adjust the calculations to determine the benefits
- Adjust how the annual cost-of-living for benefits is calculated
What to Do
All this may be out of your control, but there are things you can control. Your financial future is in your hands. Evaluate your retirement planning strategy. Consider various situations that you may face when approaching retirement. Learn to save as much as you can for retirement, if possible.
It’s important to know your benefits, the law regarding Social Security and any expectations you have about your future payouts. Understand your Social Security statement. It contains a detailed record of your earnings and estimates of your benefits — retirement, disability and survivor. Access your records by registering online at ssa.gov.