Social Security serves as a very important income source for many seniors today. And chances are, you’ll be dependent on those benefits to some degree once you’re ready to retire.
But if you have concerns related to Social Security, you’re in good company. Here are a couple of common fears related to the program — and what to do about them.
1. My monthly benefit will be smaller than I think
You’ll often hear that seniors on Social Security struggle to make ends meet. And so you may be worried that your monthly benefit won’t be as generous as you expect it to.
Rather than stay up at night wondering what your benefit will look like, get an estimate. You can do so by accessing your annual earnings statements, which are available on the Social Security Administration’s website. They’ll also arrive in the mail if you’re 60 or older.
Not only do those statements summarize your taxable wages each year, but they also provide an estimate of your future Social Security benefit. Of course, the closer you are to retirement, the more accurate that estimate will be, since your monthly benefit will be calculated based on 35 years’ worth of earnings.
If you access your earnings statement and aren’t thrilled with your estimated benefit, you can take steps to raise it. First, the more income you earn, the higher a benefit you may be in line for. And so taking on a side job could result in a more robust paycheck now and a more generous Social Security benefit down the line.
Additionally, you can plan on delaying your Social Security filing beyond full retirement age, which is 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later. For each year you hold off on claiming benefits, up until age 70, they’ll increase by 8%, and that boost will then remain in effect for as long as you collect Social Security.
2. The program is running out of money
Social Security’s finances aren’t in the best of shape. In the coming years, the program will owe more money in benefits than it receives in revenue as baby boomers exit the workforce in droves, cutting the amount of payroll tax collected to fund Social Security.
For now, Social Security can tap its trust funds to keep up with scheduled benefits. Once those trust funds run dry, which is expected to happen in a little over 10 years, the program may have to slash benefits.
That’s a scary thought, of course. But it’s also not the same thing as Social Security running out of money to pay benefits completely. And that scenario, thankfully, is not on the table.
Furthermore, if you’re worried about the program having to reduce benefits, you can take steps to become less reliant on Social Security once you’re ready to close out your career. If you save consistently to build a robust nest egg, you’ll have access to money that can take the place of some of the benefits you would’ve received.
There’s no reason to lie awake at night worrying about Social Security. While the program’s finances aren’t perfect and benefits aren’t always so generous, there are steps you can address both issues — and set yourself up to avoid a financial crunch during retirement.
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