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Will Social Security Run Out Soon?

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The Social Security system of retirement benefits, begun in 1935, are a crucial underpinning of life for American retirees. For most people over 65, it’s undoubtedly hard to imagine life without this retirement benefit.

Will Social Security run out of money?

A lot of us hope not. About 50% of Americans 65 or older live in households that depend on Social Security benefits for half or more of their income, says the Social Security Administration. Social Security checks comprise nearly the entire income in a quarter of such homes.

Since its inception, Social Security has hit periodic financial crises, and Congress has always resolved them with adjustments. Money Talks News’ recent article entitled “Will Social Security Run Out of Money?” looks at the problem and whether Social Security will be allowed to go broke this time.

There are system problems that need to be addressed. When the system began in 1935, and the retirement age was set at 65, the average life expectancy was 59. Now that life expectancy in the US exceeds 80, that presents is a fly in the ointment.

A Social Security retirement check is funded from payroll taxes on Americans’ earnings over their working life and taxes on some Social Security retirement income. Employers and employees each contribute 6.2% of wages to the fund in 2022 (to an income maximum of $147,000). Self-employed people pay the full 12.4%. A total of 40% of Social Security recipients also pay income tax on their benefits, which goes back into Social Security’s trust fund. Here’s a look at the sources of Social Security’s revenue in 2021:

  • Payroll tax: $980.06 billion (90.1%)
  • Interest income: $70.1 billion in interest on invested funds (6.4%)
  • Revenue from tax on benefits: $37.6 billion (3.4%)

Right now, the benefits being paid out are more than the money coming in, and Social Security’s $2.9 trillion trust fund has begun shrinking to cover benefit checks. If nothing’s done, Social Security’s trust fund will be fully drained in 2034, according to current estimates. However, that doesn’t mean the end of Social Security. The benefits wouldn’t stop. The system would continue to operate, and payroll taxes would continue to fund benefits.

After 2034, Social Security’s annual income would still be enough to pay about 75% of benefits for the next retiring generations. Social Security will not run out of money for the lifetime of those in the system or approaching retirement. Even in 2096, Social Security’s income would be able to pay 74% of its costs. Lawmakers also have a few options for responding to changing times, including:

  • Increasing the payroll tax rate
  • Eliminating the cap on taxable earnings above the current $147,000 to tap more of wealthy taxpayers’ income
  • Folding state and local government employees into the system to broaden the tax base; and
  • Gradually lifting the age at which recipients can claim benefits.

Reference: Money Talks News (Nov. 8, 2022) “Will Social Security Run Out of Money?”

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