Social Security is running out. But perhaps it should be discussed even more, as the latest report from the Social Security Board of Trustees implies, as of yet, little is being done to reverse its fate.
In line with last year’s projection, the Board foresees full funding for the 83-year-old program to only last until 2034. At that time, 79 percent of benefits are expected to remain payable—a trivial boost from last year’s estimate of 77 percent.
What’s worse, the total annual cost of the program will likely exceed its income in 2018—and it’s anticipated that this trend will persist year-after-year. To make up for the shortfall, the program will need to dip into its reserves for the first time since 1982.
“People are living longer than any time in history and birthrates are declining. This phenomenon known as ‘population aging’ is financially straining government-sponsored retirement benefits,” Catherine Collinson, CEO and president, Transamerica Institute, Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, and executive director, Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement, explained in a statement about retiring in the 21st Century.
“Simultaneously, employers have been replacing traditional defined benefit pension plans with employee-funded defined contribution retirement plans,” she said. “Today, individuals are expected to take on increasing risk and responsibility in self-funding a greater portion of their retirement income.”
A recent study examining retirement income strategies found that almost half (49 percent) of those surveyed said Social Security will be their top source of income when they exit the workforce.
Theoretically, Millennials should be doing better than older generations when it comes to retirement planning. In a separate study comparing generational trends, only 22 percent said they are factoring Social Security into their retirement planning. But sadly, they’re doing little to make up for it. Almost 40 percent still aren’t saving on their own.
Closest to retirement age, Baby Boomers are doing better at socking away money. Nine in 10 are saving on their own in a 401k or other account. Their nest egg might not be enough though, considering around 80 percent are counting on Social Security to supplement it.
Thankfully, it’s doubtful the program will collapse entirely during Boomers’ lifetime. Younger workers, on the other hand, are right to be concerned. Social Security experts say the government just might end up increasing payroll taxes and decreasing benefits in the coming years in order to rescue the program—less than stellar news for an already struggling younger generation of workers.
Summing up the Board’s report, Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, said, “The Trustees’ projected depletion date of the combined Social Security Trust Funds has not changed, and slightly more than three-fourths of benefits would still be payable after depletion. But the fact remains that Congress can keep Social Security strong by taking action to ensure the future of the program.”