Dear Rusty: Politicians are talking about taking money from Social Security, but I need that money to support my daughter and pay for my home. I’m a widow, and my husband passed in 2017. I’ll lose my home if my Social Security benefits are cut. Please help. Signed: Widowed Senior
Dear Widowed Senior: Despite what you might read or hear in the media, the main threat for you to lose any of your Social Security money is if Social Security is not reformed. In that case, everyone who receives benefits will see a cut of about 23 percent to their monthly benefit starting in about 2034. The way to avoid that is by updating the current Social Security law to address two primary issues:
- People now live much longer than when Social Security was enacted in 1935 and when the last major program change occurred in 1983. Average life expectancy of beneficiaries today is mid-80s, compared to mid-60s when the program started. In other words, people now collect benefits for much longer (often decades longer) than the program is designed to support.
- The number of workers contributing to the program is growing much slower than the growth in beneficiaries receiving benefits. That means the ratio of contributors to recipients is much less now than it has been in the past, which means program costs are growing faster than incoming revenue.
Reality is that reform is necessary now to avoid cuts to everyone’s benefits later. But here’s a very important point that should comfort you – any reform enacted will almost certainly affect only those who have not yet claimed their Social Security benefits. That means you should not be affected because you’re already receiving benefits, and you will continue to do so at the same amount except for the increases you will get from Cost of Living Adjustments. Every Social Security change ever made has affected only future beneficiaries, not current ones. The only real threat to your Social Security benefit is if no changes are made and, even then, any cuts wouldn’t happen until about 2034.
So please rest assured that your personal Social Security benefits will not be cut. Anything you hear now implying otherwise is a scare tactic designed to make headlines for political gain. The program must be reformed or face insolvency in a bit more than 10 years, and that is what both Republicans and Democrats want to prevent. The difference between the parties is that one side wants to solve the problem mainly by raising Social Security payroll taxes on workers, whereas the other side wants to adjust the program to deal with the above two factors causing the problem. What is needed is bipartisan cooperation to reach a compromise, which Congress will hopefully eventually achieve. They already know how to fix Social Security; they just need to find the bipartisan spirit needed to do so. For its part, the Association of Mature American Citizens has, for years, proposed changes which would restore Social Security to full solvency without raising taxes on American workers, and AMAC’s proposal has been well received by many in Congress. If you wish to review AMAC’s proposal, please go to www.amac.us/social-security/.
In any case, contrary to what you might hear in the media, your current Social Security benefits should not be negatively affected by any future Social Security reform enacted.