The Social Security Trustees released their annual report on Social Security’s finances today. Though you wouldn’t know it from reading some of the media coverage, the hard facts show that we can count on Social Security—whatever our ages. Here are five things you should know about Social Security’s finances:
- Social Security can pay 100 percent of promised benefits for the next 20 years – until 2033 – even if Congress takes no action.
- Social Security can continue to pay 77 percent of promised benefits after 2033 from payroll taxes, even if Congress takes no action. There is a long-term shortfall that needs to be closed—but Social Security isn’t going broke.
- For future generations, we can ensure payment of 100 percent of benefits with modest changes, like having high earners pay payroll taxes on all their earnings.
- Social Security is running a surplus, taking in more income than it will pay out in benefits, including the interest it earns on the over $2.7 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds it holds in its Trust Funds as well as payroll tax revenue. And it will continue to run surpluses through 2020, increasing the Trust Funds to nearly $3 trillion that year.
- Social Security is working as intended. The reason for building up the Trust Funds is to provide a reserve that can be drawn upon when needed to support the Baby Boomers’ retirement. The Trustees’ annual report on the program’s long-term finances gives lawmakers years to make the additional adjustments needed to strengthen and improve the program for generations to come.
The news that Social Security is still going strong is particularly good news for women, because women especially rely on Social Security [PDF]. Social Security provides more than half the family income of women 65 and older; without Social Security, nearly half of them would be poor. And Social Security isn’t just for retirement. Minority women disproportionately rely on Social Security disability benefits, and more than 1.1 million children were lifted out of poverty in 2011 by Social Security.
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