Social Security Myth #6: No more Social Security?

MYTH: Social Security will go broke in the next 20 years.

That’s a scary statement, and it gets tossed around frequently. Should you worry about it? Not really. Social Security is essentially a pay-as-you-go system. The workers today are paying through their FICA taxes for the benefits current retirees are receiving.

In 2017, if you are W-2 employee you pay 7.65% of your income into the program and your employer pays an equivalent amount. Self-employed workers are required to pay the full amount of 15.3% (but they may be able to deduct some of the expense when they file their annual tax returns).

Any surplus money currently goes into a trust fund and is invested into treasury bonds. By 2034 the trust is projected to run out of money, and this is the source of the scary “going broke” concept. Even if the projection is accurate, however this doesn’t mean that benefits will stop all together. The payroll taxes alone from those working in 2034 should still cover about 79% of promised benefits.

But it’s true that in this scenario there would not be enough money for the program to continue exactly as it is. Congress will need to act by raising taxes, cutting Social Security benefits or both. We should expect a solution to be hammered out long before 2034. Though either of these options would be hard choices that will no doubt inspire real debate, the risk to millions of Social Security beneficiaries that vote will hopefully get politicians of all persuasions to act in plenty of time to prevent the program from facing a true crisis.

Not associated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other government agency.

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