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It remains a nagging question: Will we run out of Social Security?

by Alliance America
September 25, 2023


One of the most pressing concerns surrounding Social Security is its long-term sustainability, and a key question in the minds of many future and current retirees is this: When will we run out of Social Security?

To understand the future of Social Security, it’s important to examine its financing and current projections. While some critics argue that the system is on the verge of collapse, a closer analysis reveals a more complex picture.

Social Security is primarily financed through payroll taxes collected from current workers, which are then used to pay benefits to retirees. As older Americans are living longer and the population ages, there has been growing concern about whether the system can sustain itself.

According to projections from the Social Security Administration (SSA), if no changes are made, it is estimated that by 2035, the trust funds will only be able to pay approximately 77% of scheduled benefits. However, it should be noted that experts say running out of Social Security completely is highly unlikely.

Even if no adjustments are made to address the projected shortfall in funding, there would still be revenue coming in from payroll taxes. This means that some level of benefits would continue to be paid out; however, they may need to be reduced unless additional measures are taken.

Congress also has historically demonstrated a commitment to ensuring that Social Security remains a reliable source of retirement income for older Americans. While concerns about running out of Social Security have been raised due to changing demographics and funding challenges, it's important not to exaggerate or oversimplify this issue.

The system faces financial challenges in the future without appropriate action but completely running out of funds seems unlikely. It remains crucial for policymakers and lawmakers to find sustainable solutions through comprehensive reforms such as adjusting tax rates or raising retirement ages so that future generations can continue relying on this guaranteed investment and reliable source of income during their retirement years.

What is Social Security’s mission?

Social Security is a federal program that provides financial assistance to individuals and their families who are retired, disabled or have lost a loved one. Enacted in 1935 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, it was designed to provide a safety net for older Americans and ensure that they have a reliable source of income during their retirement years.

The primary purpose of Social Security is to assist individuals in replacing part of their pre-retirement income when they are no longer working. It functions as an annuity by pooling money from workers' paychecks and distributing it as monthly benefits to eligible recipients.

These benefits serve as a guaranteed source of income, helping retirees maintain a certain standard of living even after they leave the workforce. Another important aspect of Social Security is its role in providing financial protection for disabled individuals and the families of deceased workers.

If someone becomes disabled before reaching retirement age, Social Security offers monetary support through disability benefits. Similarly, if a worker passes away, their surviving spouse, children or dependents may be eligible for survivor benefits.

To finance the Social Security system, current workers contribute a portion of their earnings through payroll taxes known as FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) taxes. These funds are used to pay out benefits to current beneficiaries rather than being saved or invested individually.

While there has been ongoing discussion about the long-term financing of Social Security due to demographic changes and increasing life expectancies, it remains an essential pillar for supporting millions of Americans in their retirement years. Social Security is a vital program that offers monetary support and financial security for retired individuals, disabled people and survivors of deceased workers.

It functions as an annuity by providing guaranteed income during retirement while also serving as insurance against disability or death for those who qualify.

How can Social Security be fixed?

Social Security, as a foundational pillar of the social welfare system in the United States, has faced significant challenges in recent years. To ensure its sustainability and effectiveness for future generations of retirees, it is imperative to address the potential fixes for this complex program.

Several key strategies can be implemented to strengthen Social Security and guarantee reliable income for older Americans. First and foremost, one viable solution lies in securing the financing of Social Security through revenue enhancements.

One option is to gradually increase the payroll tax rate or remove the current cap on taxable earnings. By doing so, additional funding would be generated to sustain the program's long-term solvency.

Alternatively, exploring other revenue sources such as investment income could provide a more diversified and sustainable funding stream for Social Security. Another approach involves adjusting benefit formulas and retirement age requirements.

This could entail implementing reforms that take into account factors such as increased life expectancies and changes in average retirement ages. By recalculating benefits based on updated demographic data, fairness can be achieved while ensuring adequate coverage throughout an individual's retirement years.

Additionally, encouraging personal savings through incentivized retirement plans can help alleviate some of the strain on Social Security. Encouraging individuals to invest in annuities or other vehicles that generate a guaranteed income stream during retirement would supplement their Social Security benefits effectively.

This strategy not only reduces dependence on government-funded programs but also empowers individuals to take control of their financial future. Securing the future of Social Security requires multifaceted approaches aimed at fostering financial stability and sustainability.

Implementing revenue-enhancing measures, adjusting benefit formulas and promoting personal savings are all integral components of fixing this vital program for older Americans. By adopting these strategies collectively or selectively over time, it may be able to ensure that Social Security remains a reliable source of income well into the future while supporting retirees' financial well-being with confidence and peace of mind.

How can I check my Social Security status?

As a diligent individual preparing for retirement, it is crucial to stay informed about your Social Security status. By understanding how to check your Social Security status, you can ensure that all the necessary information about your benefits, earnings history and estimated benefits is accurate and up to date.

One of the primary ways to check your Social Security status is by creating an account on the official Social Security Administration website. Through the portal, you can access a range of services and information related to your benefits.

Creating an account requires personal identification information, such as your name, date of birth, Social Security number, address and phone number. Once registered, you will have access to various resources including your earnings record and estimates of future benefits.

Another avenue for checking your Social Security status is by contacting the SSA directly via phone or in-person visits to local offices. The SSA has dedicated representatives who are available to assist with inquiries regarding benefit calculations or discrepancies in earnings records.

It is advisable to have relevant documents such as tax returns or pay stubs readily available when speaking with an SSA representative. Additionally, it is essential to review the annual statement mailed out by the SSA.

This statement provides important details about your earnings history and estimates of future benefits based on different retirement ages. Although these statements are no longer automatically mailed out every year for individuals over 60 years old who are not receiving benefits yet (due to cost-saving measures), they can still be requested from the SSA website or through phone calls or office visits.

Staying well-informed about your Social Security status plays a vital role in planning for a secure retirement. By utilizing online resources, reaching out directly to SSA representatives when needed and regularly reviewing annual statements sent by the administration – if applicable – you can keep track of any changes in benefit calculations and ensure that you are making informed decisions regarding your financial future.

How is Social Security calculated?

Social Security benefits are determined based on a formula that takes into account several factors. Primarily, the calculation considers an individual's earnings over their working lifetime.

The SSA calculates an average indexed monthly earnings (AIME), which takes into account the inflation-adjusted wages earned during the worker's highest-earning years. This indexing accounts for changes in average wages over time and ensures a fair assessment of a person's earnings in relation to their peers.

Once the AIME is determined, it is divided into three separate portions or "bend points." Each portion is multiplied by a specific percentage, known as a benefit formula and adjusted for inflation annually. The sum of these three amounts gives the primary insurance amount (PIA), which represents the monthly benefit an individual would receive if they claimed at their full retirement age (FRA).

It's important to note that claiming before or after FRA can result in reduced or increased benefits, respectively. To provide older Americans with a reliable stream of income during retirement, Social Security utilizes a progressive benefit structure.

This means that lower-income workers receive a higher replacement rate compared to higher-income earners. While those with lower lifetime earnings may receive benefits that replace around 40% of pre-retirement income, individuals with higher incomes may see replacement rates closer to 20%.

The calculations also take into account cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) to ensure that beneficiaries' benefits keep pace with inflation. COLAs are automatic increases tied to changes in consumer prices and help protect recipients against erosion of purchasing power over time.

These adjustments guarantee that Social Security serves as a stable annuity-like source of income throughout one's retirement years. Understanding how Social Security benefits are calculated provides individuals with valuable insight into their potential retirement income.

How to apply for Social Security?

Applying for Social Security is a crucial step in securing a reliable and guaranteed income for your retirement years. The process may seem daunting at first, but with a clear understanding of the steps involved, you can easily navigate through it. To start the application process, you have several options available to you.

The most convenient method is to apply online through the official Social Security Administration website. This option allows you to complete and submit your application from the comfort of your own home, at a time that suits you best.

Alternatively, if you prefer a more personal touch or have specific questions, you can schedule an appointment at your local SSA office and apply in person. When applying for Social Security benefits, it is essential to gather all the necessary documents beforehand.

These typically include your birth certificate or proof of age, Social Security number (or proof of application), proof of citizenship or lawful presence in the United States, military service documents (if applicable), and most recent W-2 forms or self-employment tax return. Furthermore, be prepared to provide information about any additional benefits or pensions you might be receiving from other sources such as annuities or retirement savings plans.

It's important to note that receiving benefits from these sources does not affect your eligibility for Social Security; however, it's crucial to disclose this information during the application process. Once your application is submitted successfully along with all required documents, it will be reviewed by the SSA staff who will verify its completeness and accuracy.

If any additional information is needed during this review process, they may contact you directly. Afterward, if everything checks out and meets their criteria for approval, you can expect to receive your first monthly payment within a few months.


Social Security serves as a vital safety net in the United States, providing a guaranteed source of income for older Americans during retirement. The projections regarding when Social Security will run out vary among experts; however, it is clear that without reform, challenges lie ahead.

Nevertheless, there are potential solutions to strengthen the program and ensure its sustainability for future generations. One approach to fixing Social Security involves adjusting the retirement age and calculating benefits based on life expectancy.

Alliance America can help

Alliance America is an insurance and financial services company dedicated to the art of personal financial planning. Our financial professionals can assist you in maximizing your retirement resources and achieving your future goals. We have access to an array of products and services, all focused on helping you enjoy the retirement lifestyle you want and deserve. You can request a no-cost, no-obligation consultation by calling (833) 219-6884 today.

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