Millions of seniors today rely on Social Security to cover their expenses in retirement. And for many years, Social Security has steadily paid benefits to those who have been eligible for them.
But in the coming years, those benefits may be in jeopardy, to some degree. This isn't to say that Social Security is going away. Rather, the program may be forced to cut benefits universally in roughly 10 years once its trust funds run out of money.
Social Security gets the bulk of its funding from payroll taxes — the same taxes many of us grumble about paying. But in the coming years, baby boomers will be retiring in droves, and not enough workers will be entering the labor force to replace them.
Social Security will be able to tap its trust funds to keep up with scheduled benefits once they're depleted. But that's expected to happen in a little more than a decade from now, and from there, benefit cuts could be on the table. Those cuts could be substantial, too, amounting to 20% or more.
Lawmakers are well aware of the problems Social Security is facing and have introduced different potential solutions to address the program's impending financial shortfall. The problem, though, is that each solution on the table comes with its own drawback.
Of course, Social Security cuts, or changes to the program to prevent them, are apt to impact retirees universally and individually. And the frustrating thing is that you might feel like all you can do is sit back and wait for lawmakers to decide what to do about the issues at hand.
But now, a new tool from the American Academy of Actuaries will let you dive into Social Security's funding issues. It will also give you a chance to decide what changes you think should be made to the program.
How would you address Social Security's financial problems?
Different proposals are being contemplated to address Social Security's funding shortfall. But each one seems to have a clear drawback.
One option, for example, is to raise the full retirement age, which is when older Americans are eligible for their full monthly Social Security benefit based on their respective wage histories. Right now, that age is 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later. Pushing it back to 68 or 69 would no doubt help Social Security — but it might upend the plans of some near-retirees.
Another proposal involves raising the payroll tax cap, which currently sits at $160,200. Imposing Social Security taxes on higher incomes would no doubt pump more money into the program. But it would then create an imbalance, because Social Security also pays seniors a maximum monthly benefit. And to raise the payroll tax cap and not raise that maximum benefit doesn't seem just.
It's not an exercise in futility
Weighing in on Social Security via the aforementioned tool might seem like a waste of your time. But one thing you can do to voice your opinion about Social Security is reach out to lawmakers in your state and share your thoughts on how to solve the program's solvency issues. It might also help to gain a deeper understanding of the problems Social Security is facing, which the aforementioned tool gets into to some degree.
Another important thing to do? Face the reality that Social Security will need to change in some way in the coming years. That doesn't automatically mean benefits will be cut. But the changes that are implemented could impact your retirement, so it's important to understand the proposals that are on the table and find different ways to work around them.
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