Why I’m not Counting on Social Security, and Neither Should You

Social Security retirement benefits aren’t going to be an important source of retirement income for me, even though they are for many people. In fact, I’m not counting on these benefits at all.

While I expect to eventually receive some money from the Social Security Administration, I won’t rely on it. And I’m taking steps to make sure I’ll be financially secure without it by investing.

Here’s why I’m not counting on Social Security — and why most people should also make sure they don’t need these monthly checks to make ends meet.

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Social Security benefits may not be available until later in retirement

The biggest reason why I’m not counting on Social Security to support me as a retiree is because I’ll likely want to stop working years before I claim these benefits.

Retirement income from the Social Security Administration first becomes available at 62. There’s a good chance I’ll pursue early retirement even before that age. Since I won’t be able to access my benefits if I do, I will need enough other income to support me without getting a dime from Social Security.

Even if I work until a more-standard retirement age, I hope to put off claiming Social Security until 70. This would max out my chances of getting the most lifetime income from this retirement benefits program. For the majority of people, a delayed benefits claim makes that happen.

There’s almost no chance I’ll keep working until 70, so I definitely will need enough retirement savings to live on without Social Security in order to make this strategic choice about when to get my first check.

If you plan to retire early or you want to delay Social Security until 70 and quit work before then, you should also not count on Social Security as a source of support for much of your retirement.

Social Security benefits might be less than expected

There’s also an even more important reason why I’m not counting on Social Security and why others shouldn’t, either.

The program’s trust fund could run out of money by around 2034. If that happens and lawmakers don’t step in to make changes, an automatic benefits cut will occur because the only source of funds to pay benefits will come from taxes currently being collected. The revenue the program brings in can cover around three-quarters of the promised benefit amount, but not all of it.

Chances are good that this huge cut won’t be allowed to happen. But other reductions in benefits could occur in an attempt to stave it off, such as a change to the age when you can claim your full benefit, or a change to the way cost-of-living adjustments are calculated that results in benefits not keeping up as closely with inflation.

Since I have no control over whether my Social Security income will end up smaller than expected — or how big any benefit reduction is — I don’t want to count on this money as a source of retirement income. I want to be 100% confident I have all the money I need if Social Security turns out to be a letdown. And others who don’t want any chance of a financial shortfall in retirement should set the same goal.

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