What You Should Know about Social Security
Aging Matters

The excellent benefit of turning age 65 is Medicare eligibility, and a year after that, it rings in the full retirement age, and you become entitled to the full Social Security benefits. According to the PewResearch.org, that's about 10,000 people each day, and I'm one.

Social Security is central to the financial safety of millions in retirement, but I've heard on numerous occasions that Social Security is on a path to economic ruin. The system is very complicated, but if things don't change, it won't maintain solvency.

USAToday reported on a survey by the National Academy of Social Insurance revealing that Americans believe Social Security is critical:

  • 89% say SS benefits are more important now than ever.
  • 84% think we should consider increasing future SS benefits.
  • 82% agree to preserve it for the future.

The Social Security trust fund won't go broke, at least not for several years. As of 2015, Social Security took in $913.9 billion and paid out $904.7 billion. More comes in than goes out but that changes in 2019. Conversely, the funds take a cash-flow deficit starting 2019 and begin to pay out more than it generates.

Social Security runs out of funds in 2034, and the program will have enough to cover about three-quarters of the promised benefits. But it won't disappear entirely.

What needs to change

According to the USAToday article, a couple of actions will fix the cash-flow problem. A few mentions include increase SS taxes, raise the average retirement age, alter the wage cap (raise), reduce benefits, modify the cost-of-living calculation, and raise the number of years that calculate the benefits. The National Academy of Social Insurance believes that combining the changes will offer a slight remedy but not fix it 100 percent. Here's a list of the recommended changes:

  • Up the SS tax rate for employers and employees to 7.2% in 2022 and 8.2% in 2052. Currently, it is 6.20 percent. Another suggestion is to increase the tax rate by 0.05 % per annum for 20 years.
  • Eliminate the taxable earnings cap over a 10-year period or increase the earnings cap to 90% of all earnings over five years.
  • Extend the full retirement age to 68 or 70.
  • Lower the cost-of-living adjustment.

Each recommendation holds a varying degree of impact on the Social Security solvency. To read the exact data, visit http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2016/01/16/social-security-2016-stats/78272502/

The recommendations that Americans most favor

  • 83% support (gradually) increasing Social Security taxes
  • 80% approve (slowly) eliminating the earnings cap

Both are favorable as long as an individual receives a cost-of-living adjustment to keep up with the rising costs of healthcare.

Least favored recommendation

  • Changing the full retirement age (even to 68) is least popular

Let's hope Congress take action very soon to remedy the Social Security tax fund. Carol Marak is the editor at SeniorCare.com. She's earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from the University of CA, Davis. Contact Carol at Carol@SeniorCare.com.

Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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