Will Social Security Still Provide That Safety Net When It's Your Time to Collect?

The future of Social Security is a topic that's been hashed over for decades now, and still, many folks wonder about the "security" of these benefits. It is seen as the largest federal social insurance program in the United States and provides a monthly retirement income for almost every American worker. Will it even exist 10 years from now?

That's the million-dollar question. Economists believe that the famous retirement trust fund could see depletion by 2034. That's a frightening thought for many, and there are three factors to consider. Retirees are living longer, there are more retirees, and there are fewer workers per retiree paying into the system.

Remember the Lockbox Idea?

Maybe Al Gore had the right theory back then. The Democratic presidential candidate announced the concept of a lockbox during the 2000 election to show his firm commitment to keeping Social Security solvent. His idea would have all payroll tax receipts entirely segregated from the rest of the government's balance sheet. Opponents called the notion ridiculous, but the Social Security crisis continues more than 20 years later.

Donald Trump could be taking a page out of Al Gore's lockbox idea again. In 2015, Trump vowed not to touch Social Security and cut it as every other Republican had and added that he wouldn't cut Medicare or Medicaid, either. Trump has since attacked Gov. Ron DeSantis in recent TV ads, saying that his GOP rival voted to "cut Social Security" multiple times while he was a U.S. Congressman prior to his election as Florida's governor in 2018.

Social Security reform could be that hot-button issue once again in the 2024 presidential election.

Financial Experts Have a Solution

To manage a Social Security shortfall, those in the banking industry believe the nation has several options for saving the system and ensuring that folks receive their promised safety net when it's their time to collect.

For example, these ideas have been floated around. The first one is to raise the payroll tax rate to increase tax fund reserves, but many in Congress don't care for that concept because it's basically a tax increase.

Another idea is to tax more wages. This one would affect high-income W2 workers because right now, those who earn above $137,700, currently escape taxation for Social Security.

How about this one? Increase the full retirement age gradually to age 69, which some proposals have discussed. However, this idea would hurt lower-income individuals who have shorter life expectancies than wealthier retirees.

The government could also reduce COLA or the annual cost of living adjustments which are based on the consumer price index. Those on fixed incomes wouldn't be pleased because it could be challenging for these people in paying housing and rental costs that are rising each year. Healthcare costs are also pricier for older Americans who spend more on maintaining their health.

Social Security benefits could also be cut for future beneficiaries. Financial pros believe that if benefits are not cut before 2034, all benefits would need to be reduced by 22%.

Even Millennials Will Get Their Share

Don't worry because if Social Security is depleted by 2034, retirees would still pocket about 76% of their benefits. Millennials, Gen Xers and other generations that follow would collect those checks in the future, too. It would be wonderful to have a real solution and have those on Capitol Hill tackle Social Security reform.

Meanwhile, Social Security is essential because it lifts millions of older adults above the poverty line. There are several types of benefits, including retirement benefits, auxiliary benefits, survivor benefits, disability benefits and supplemental security benefits.

A Historic Act Created During the Great Depression

The most vulnerable individuals depend on Social Security, and it has proven to be one of the most effective and successful programs the United States has ever established. President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935, some 87 years ago, and said this in part: "We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program."


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