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Faith low in Social Security

By Jennie L. Phipps · Bankrate.com
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

Retirement planning confidence in the future of Social Security is weak, with three out of 10 people believing they'll never be able to collect, according to a survey by Findlaw.com, a website that provides legal information for professionals.

Another 31 percent are fairly confident that they will receive something from the program, while the rest are unsure. Even people 55 and older are not positive that they'll be able to count on Social Security in retirement, with 36 percent saying they lack confidence that the checks will arrive.

Warnings by the Social Security Administration and the Treasury Department that checks could be delayed if the debt ceiling isn't lifted don't inspire confidence. Before you panic, look at it this way:

Social Security is the most important program the country has. Nine out of 10 people 65 and older get a check. For those people, Social Security represents an average of 39 percent of their income. For 23 percent of married couples and 46 percent of unmarried people, Social Security represents 90 percent or more of their income.

Older Americans are reliable voters. I pity the politician who votes to do anything detrimental to Social Security. Even cutting benefits for some people or in small ways is politically unpalatable.

But we do need to make some changes. In total, 161 million workers are covered by Social Security. There are currently 2.8 workers for every recipient of Social Security. By 2033, that will drop to 2.1 workers for each recipient. You don't have to be a math genius to see that something has to give.

One solution that is often suggested is to raise or eliminate the $113,700 wage cap on which Social Security taxes are levied. We also could increase the wage tax on both workers and employers. Another suggestion is to make 100 percent of Social Security payments taxable; currently, a maximum of 85 percent of Social Security income can be taxed. We could adopt the chained consumer price index, or CPI, on which cost-of-living adjustments are based. That would slow the growth of the program and spread the pain around.

Nobody likes any of these ideas very much. All of them raise costs for somebody. But keeping the program solvent and the checks flowing is vital. We need our government leaders to understand that and have the fortitude to do something about it.

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23 Comments
John
July 28, 2014 at 3:15 am

Knowing the amount money the federal govt. borrowed over the years from SS to fund welfare. You would think welfare should run out of money before SS. Don't let a any, (white, black or other), women say they don't know who their baby's daddies are. Find out and have both of them help with the financial support of their children. Stop the welfare game of a check per child, it perpetuates laziness and corruption. If the govt. wants to help. They could start manufacturing businesses and employ these individuals. By working, these individuals should feel like they were contributing members of our society. The goods created could be sold to pay the salaries of these workers. The excess profits could be used to repay SS. There are very few politicians on either side that have ever touched this issue. Why do you think this is?

john headley
January 05, 2014 at 7:09 pm

Until local, state and federal governments stop raising taxes for expenditures on unnecessary "services" there will never be enough money for retired people to survive. The list of services provided by government is apalling. All schools should be run privately with parents deducting cost from their income. If we don't toughen up and fend for ourselves we are doomed.

HOWARD K
October 17, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Ruth - - They borrowed money from Social Security and got U S government securities in return. They own more securities than China. As long as the government can print money, there will be plenty to pay for Social Security. What we need now is to get good jobs back in the country so that the input into Social Security will be enough to sustain it. All the low paying jobs are really robbing Social Security from its income stream.