Can Americans Rely On Social Security As It Stands To Fund Their Retirement
One-fifth of Americans plan on using their Social Security income to fund their whole retirement, but even if the program continues to exist in its current form, this will likely be difficult for most retirees.
With the rise of inflation and the overall cost of living, unless you can truly stick to a budget which in my experience most people dont Social Security is not sufficient for most retirement expenses, said Frank Murillo, partner and managing director at Snowden Lane Partners.
What people envision spending in retirement and what they actually spend are two different things, he continued. With the clients I work with, we go through an exercise I call recreating the dollar where we piece together sources of income to mimic what they had through their working years. Then we stretch that for a reasonable time span, and the results of what they can actually spend are eye-opening.
Social Security was never meant to be a retirees only source of retirement income, said Wade Pfau, co-director of the Retirement Income Center at The American College of Financial Services.
It is meant to replace about 40% of the average indexed lifetime earnings of someone who worked and earned an average wage over their lifetime, he said. Many retirees will seek to replace a higher percentage than this.
Most experts suggest aiming to plan for retirement income that is at least 70% of your pre-retirement income.
How Is Social Security Calculated
Its based on your lifetime Social Security earnings & adjusted for inflation. The basic formula is the total of your highest 35 years of adjusted earnings divided by 420 equals your monthly average earnings. Your benefits are determined using this amount, and the maximum benefit cap. The monthly amount you receive if you file at your FRA is called the Primary Insurance amount .
Think Of Social Security As Just One Part Of Your Retirement Planning
We should never ignore Social Security as an income source in retirementwe just shouldnt count too heavily on it for planning purposes.
Once again, according to the Social Security Administration, the the average monthly benefit is $1,230, or just about exactly halfway between the $1 minimum and the $2,513 maximum.
With the cost of living being what it is today thats a true supplement and little more.
One of the complications we have with developing a more balanced approach to retirement planning is that relatively few employers have traditional defined benefit pension plans any more. That eliminates what was once a reliable component of retirement income.
In a very real sense when it comes to retirement planning, were truly on our own.
Even though retirement is an event thats decades away for many, when it comes to retirement planning, theres a definite element of carpe diem, or seize the day. As in this daywe need to be working now to be ready for a retirement that will be mostly the product our own efforts.
Recommended Reading: New York State Retirement System Online
Pensions Vs Social Security: Key Differences
The Social Security program is not a pension plan. It is a social insurance plan meant to supplement a retired workers pension and savings. If a worker has paid into Social Security, they can start drawing benefits at retirement age. The retirement age for Social Security is at least 62 years. For a defined benefit pension, it is usually 55 years. You can sometimes draw out your pension in a lump sum or you can receive the monthly payment. You cant draw out Social Security in a lump sum.
There is a vesting requirement for many pension plans, but none for Social Security. In the case of the death of a retired worker, the spouse may get a reduced benefit and a small survivor benefit. There are no survivors benefits with a pension plan. Social Security may provide a survivors benefit to dependent parents and dependent children.
Social Security is funded, primarily, through a payroll tax that most Americans pay. Pension plans are funded privately by a combination of company and employee funds. Social Security has a disability income program, but pension funds do not.
You arent required to pay Social Security tax above the wage base limit, which is $142,800 in 2021. You do, however, keep paying tax on pension income.
Social Security: More Than Just Retirement Benefits
How much do you know about Social Security? Regardless of your age, its good to have a foundational knowledge of what it is and what it provides including disability benefits, survivor benefits and, of course, retirement benefits. In fact, Social Security is a fundamental part of your retirement plan! The ASRS is meant to be only one part of your financial retirement picture, with Social Security and personal savings making up the rest.
If youre curious about how much your future social security benefit might be, create an account and find out! Whether youre 20 or 60, you can visit SSA.gov, create your account, and see a snapshot of how much youve earned over your working career, along with projections of what your Social Security benefit may look like.
If youre close to 60, you may want to start planning on when to take Social Security: you can start taking a benefit at an earlier age for a reduced amount or decide to wait to increase your monthly benefit.
For more information on Social Security, view the age-specific fact sheets below and visit ssa.gov!
Also Check: Center For Learning In Retirement
Social Security Act Amendments
Many amendments have been passed to the original Social Security Act. For instance, originally, monthly payouts of old-age benefits were slated to start on January 1, 1942. Eligible people who turned 65 prior to that date received a lump sum payment.
On August 10, 1939, an amendment passed to move up the start date to receive monthly benefits to January 1, 1940. Another amendment extended eligibility to dependents and survivors of retired workers.
In the 1950s, amendments were made which extended Social Security eligibility to domestic and farm workers, non-farm self-employed professionals and some federal employees. It also offered voluntary coverage to some state and federal employees, hundreds of thousands of nonprofit employees and workers in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
In addition, benefits were increased for millions of beneficiaries and a new contribution schedule established.
The Debate Over The Program’s Future
The amendments of 1983 established the general policy structure of the current Social Security program and, in particular, its current financing structure. The direct and dramatic result of the financing structure in the 1983 law was a massive buildup in the size of the trust fund reserves.
Historically, the Social Security trust funds have never been either fully funded or on a strict pay-as-you-go basis. Rather, the trust funds have always contained what former SSA Chief Actuary, Robert J. Myers, characterized as a “partial reserve.” We can conceptualize these two extremes as the end poles of a continuum. Over the decades, major legislation has tended to move the placement of the reserve in one direction or the other. Both the 1977 and the 1983 amendments shifted program policy noticeably away from the PAYGO end and significantly toward the fully funded end of this continuum .
The design of the 1983 financing scheme produced a large buildup of the reserve in the near term so that this source of investment income might help defray future costs when the “baby boom” generation began to move into beneficiary status.55 The effect of this approach to program funding can clearly be seen in Chart 3.
Annual Trustees Report, 2009
You May Like: What Do I Want To Do When I Retire
What You Need To Know About Social Security And Medicare If You Want To Retire Early
Do you plan to retire early? In a GOBankingRates retirement survey that polled 997 Americans, just 15% surveyed said they realistically want to retire at age 67, the full-retirement age for Social Security.
Nearly 26% of respondents said they realistically want to retire between ages 56 and 62 while another 26% said they would like to retire between 63 and 66.
Those who would like to retire earlier than 67 need to review what early retirement means for their Social Security and Medicare options.
Keeping Track Of Your Earnings Records
At the very minimum, you should view your online Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement every three years to be certain the SSA has maintained accurate information. In most cases, the SSA by law can correct errors only up to three years, three months and 15 days after they occur. If you don’t get a copy of your earnings history every three years and review it, you won’t catch errors in time for correction.
Don’t Miss: Jp Morgan Chase Retirement Plan Administration
Earn Ssa Work Credits In Some Countries
You may not have enough credits from your work in the United States to qualify for retirement benefits. But, you may be able to count your work credits from another country. The SSA has agreements with 24 countries. If you earned credits in one of those countries, they can help you qualify for U.S. benefits.
The 1960s: Small Policy Adjustments And Steady Program Growth
In addition to the disability liberalization, in 1960 the children’s survivor benefit was raised from 50 percent to 75 percent of the workers primary insurance amount. In 1961, men were granted the option of early retirement, insured status and RET rules were relaxed, and the minimum benefit was increased by 21 percent.
The amendments of 1965 also liberalized the definition of disability by changing the original definition from “of long continued and indefinite duration” to “12 months or longer or expected to result in death.” This legislation also lowered the eligibility age for widows from 62 to 60, extended children’s benefits to age 21 if a full-time student, provided benefits to divorced wives and widows if they had been married at least 20 years, and reduced the insured-status requirements for persons attaining age 72 before 1969.
Legislation in 1966 granted eligibility to the special age-72 class, even if they had never contributed to Social Security.
Efforts To Keep Social Security Solvent
These efforts didnt prevent the program from facing a serious financial crisis in the 1980s, however, and President Ronald Reagan created a commission to examine how to keep Social Security in the black. In 1983, he signed legislation that gradually increased the retirement age to 67, taxed Social Security benefits and provided Social Security benefits to federal workers.
After taking office in 2001, President George W. Bush appointed another Social Security Commission with its top priority being Social Security reform. No revolutionary changes were made to keep the program solvent long-term. Still, the Bush administration extended disability benefits and food stamps to qualified immigrants and their children, eliminated wage credits for the military and expanded Medicare prescription drug coverage.
President Obamas administration temporarily reduced the Social Security tax rate from 6.2 to 4.2 percent in 2011 and 2012. The move helped ease financial strain on American workers but did little to stop the risk of Social Security going into future debt.
How To Stop Social Security Check Payments
The SSA can not pay benefits for the month of a recipients death. That means if the person died in July, the check received in August must be returned. Find out how to return a check to the SSA.
If the payment is by direct deposit, notify the financial institution as soon as possible so it can return any payments received after death. For more about the requirement to return benefits for the month of a beneficiarys death, see the top of page 11 of this SSA publication.
Family members may be eligible for Social Security survivors benefits when a person getting benefits dies. Visit the SSA’s Survivors Benefits page to learn more.
Also Check: Safest Place To Retire In Florida
The Amendments Of 1939
Even before monthly benefits were due to start in 1942, the Social Security Act of 1935 was changed in quite fundamental ways by major legislative amendments in 1939. This legislation emerged from the work of an advisory council jointly formed in 1938 by the Senate Finance Committee and the Social Security Board. Conservative members of the Finance Committee wanted to use the council to revisit the debate over the reserve, while the Social Security Board wanted to use the council to promote expansion of the benefits beyond the basic individual retirement program codified in the 1935 act. In the end, both groups got some of what they wanted. The legislation advanced the start of monthly benefits from 1942 to 1940 it added dependents benefits and it replaced the system of one-time death payments with regular monthly survivors benefits.
Advancing the start of monthly benefits from 1942 to 1940 meant that the first Social Security monthly benefit would be paid in January 1940. By chance, the first person to become a monthly Social Security beneficiary was a retired legal secretary from Ludlow, VermontIda May Fuller. Fuller retired in November 1939 at age 65 and received the first-ever monthly Social Security benefit on January 31, 1940. Her monthly check was for $22.54.
The 1939 legislation also introduced the trust fund for the first time as a formal legal device to serve as the asset repository for Social Security surpluses.
How Is Social Security Financed
In order to understand why Social Security is facing a long-term financing issue, it’s important to know how Social Security works. First off, Social Security is funded through payroll tax deductions. These payroll taxes are taken directly out of an employee’s paycheck and are paid by both employees and employers. In 2022, payroll taxes apply to up to $147,000 of an individual’s annual income.
The payroll tax rate for Social Security is 6.2%. This means that employees pay 6.2% and employers pay 6.2%. Self-employed people will pay the entire payroll tax rate of 12.4%.
When a worker pays their Social Security payroll tax, that money doesn’t go to a specific Social Security fund allocated just for them. Current workers are paying into a system that pays for the benefits of all current retirees.
In 2022, for every dollar you pay in Social Security payroll tax, 85 cents goes towards the Social Security trust fund that pays monthly benefits to current retirees and their families , according to the Social Security Administration. The other 15 cents goes to a trust fund that pays benefits to people with disabilities and their families
In recent years, there has been an excess of reserves in the Social Security Trust Fund: the amount of money that the Social Security administration collects through payroll taxes exceeds the amount of money the administration pays out in benefits.
You May Like: Homestead Retirement St Cloud Fl
The 1940s: A Decade Of Start/stop Tax Policy
The decade of the 1940s was in most respects a quiescent period for Social Security policymaking: No new categories of benefits were added, no significant expansions of coverage occurred, the value of benefits was not increased in these early days), and the tax rates were not raised during the entire decade.25 This last nonevent was, however, a significant anomaly.
The 1935 law set a schedule of tax increases beginning in 1939. Tax rates were scheduled to rise four times between 1935 and 1950. These periodic increases were necessary in order to meet President Roosevelt’s demand that the system be self-supporting, and they were the basis on which the actuarial estimates were derived. However, as part of the trade-offs in the amendments of 1939, the first rate increase was cancelled. Then with the coming of World War II, the program’s finances were dramatically altered. With virtually full employment in the wartime economy, more payroll taxes began flowing into the system than the actuaries originally anticipated, and retirement claims dropped significantly. The net result was that the trust fund began running a higher balance than was previously projected. This led to the Congress enacting a series of tax rate “freezes,” which voided the tax schedule in the law. Each time a new tax rate approached, the Congress would void the increase with the expectation that the normal schedule would resume at the next step in the schedulebut this expectation was never met.
Aarp And Social Security
For more than 60 years, AARP has fought to protect Americans hard-earned Social Security benefits, answer your questions about the program and make sure it continues to be financially strong for future generations. Heres what those efforts look like today.
Advocacy in Washington and beyond
In 2022, AARP will continue to urge members of Congress to shore up Social Securitys long-term finances and keep the promises made to all current and future beneficiaries. We have fought hard against arbitrary cuts to the cost of living adjustment and against bills like the Trust Act that target Social Security as a way to deal with budget deficits. And we fought hard to ensure that those on Social Security would be able to get economic stimulus payments without having to file separately.
Delivering better service: AARP plans to continue highlighting customer service challenges and solutions at the Social Security Administration , and advocating for Congress to approve adequate funding for the SSA to deliver benefits and services properly and promptly to its growing number of customers.
State taxation: Twelve U.S. states now tax Social Security benefits. In 2022, AARP will work at the state level to eliminate this tax burden for more retirees and their families.
Helping to answer your questions
A valuable resource
Also of Interest
Don’t Miss: How To Transfer Retirement Account