Social Security Might Not Be Sustainable After All, but You Could Get More Money in 2024

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Social Security has a looming crises of not enough money and it might come sooner than you think.
Updated June 6, 2024
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Social Security seems to be on shaky ground despite an increase in monthly benefit checks. As Americans journey through life's milestones, retirement often stands out as a phase where years of hard work are rewarded with the promise of financial stability through Social Security. However, Americans’ confidence in the sustainability of this safety net has slowly declined, prompting the concern that the retirement haven they envision is more precarious than secure.

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Worrying statistics

The stability of Social Security has long been questioned, and recent studies now add to the uncertainty.

An early December Redfield & Wilton Strategies survey for Newsweek painted a concerning picture. Forty percent of respondents believed that Social Security currently pays out more to retirees than it receives in tax payments—an unsettling notion that reflects a lack of confidence in the program's financial health. With 70 million Americans relying on Social Security, these sentiments underscore a growing unease about the system's future.

The impending uncertainty is not unfounded. Analysts, including Steve Goss, the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration, have raised alarms, predicting that the trust fund's current $2.8 trillion reserves could be depleted by 2033. 

This financial precipice presents a bleak scenario, with the income flowing and projected to cover only 80% of the benefits owed. The question echoing in the minds of many is whether this vital pillar of retirement planning can weather the storm.

Legislators attempt solutions

Some former politicians have offered potential solutions to the growing problem. Former President Donald Trump suggested tapping into the nation's oil reserves, envisioning the revenue generated as a lifeline for Social Security. Meanwhile, potential 2024 Republican presidential nominee and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley advocated raising the retirement age to increase the trust fund—an idea designed to shore up the program's longevity.

The proposed solutions highlight the urgency felt across the political spectrum, acknowledging the need for reform to secure Social Security's future. However, the lack of a unified strategy raises concerns. Are these proposals enough to plug the widening gap between funds going out and those coming in? The answer remains elusive as political divisions continue to cloud the horizon.

President Joe Biden, hesitant to endorse cuts to the program, accused Republicans of harboring intentions to reduce benefits. Yet, within the GOP, diverse views emerge. While some advocate for cutting spending elsewhere to preserve Social Security, others propose an increase in the retirement age. This move has challenges and implications for the workforce and a lower chance of retiring early.

Republican Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy sounded a warning, accusing both Biden and Trump of adopting a "plan to do nothing" regarding Social Security's impending crisis. The shared sentiment among political leaders appears to acknowledge the issue's gravity. Still, a lack of consensus on a cohesive plan leaves the future of Social Security hanging in the balance.

What you can do

Amidst this uncertainty, individuals are left wondering about their financial security during retirement. The reality that Social Security might not provide the safety net they envisioned prompts a critical examination of personal financial strategies. As the cost of living rises, and with the specter of a potential Social Security shortfall, proactive measures become crucial. Unfortunately, this could also mean seeking ways to supplement Social Security benefits.

One avenue for individuals to explore is diversifying their retirement portfolios. Relying solely on Social Security might not be a sustainable strategy, and investing in diverse assets can provide additional financial security. Seeking professional financial advice becomes paramount, as experts can guide individuals in navigating the complex landscape of retirement planning and help create a personalized strategy tailored to their needs.

Additionally, staying informed and engaged in the ongoing discourse about Social Security reforms is essential. As political leaders grapple with potential solutions, understanding the implications of proposed changes can empower individuals to make informed decisions about their financial future.

The journey toward securing Social Security's sustainability is complex, involving political maneuvering, economic considerations, and societal expectations. However, by taking proactive steps now, individuals can better navigate the uncertain terrain of retirement planning, lower financial stress, and create a more resilient financial future.

Millennials and Gen X have long been aware that Social Security might not be the sure fallback their parents once expected. However, coming to terms with Social Security being unable to provide is a harsh reality. 

Younger generations should prepare themselves with supplemental retirement income plans. 401(k)s are a great place to start. Still, it can be crucial to explore IRAs, annuities, life insurance policies with investment components, and other savings strategies to ensure your money is working for you now and in retirement.

Bottom line

In the face of an evolving future, where the balance between funds and obligations teeters on the edge, the call for personal responsibility becomes ever more critical. As the nation grapples with the future of Social Security, individuals must seize control of their financial destinies, forging a path that transcends reliance on a system facing an uncertain future.


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Author Details

Georgina Tzanetos Georgina Tzanetos is a former financial advisor who has been active in financial media for the past six years. She holds a master's in political economy from NYU, where she studied distressed labor markets.