Is Social Security Going To Run Out of Money Soon?

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One of the top trending stories surrounding Social Security is whether the program will run out of money, and when. The long answer is complicated. But the short answer is that Social Security will not be running out of money anytime soon unless something unforeseen happens — although future recipients might have to get by with lower monthly payments than current recipients.

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Retirement and survivors’ benefits are paid out of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund, which is primarily funded through payroll taxes, according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. Payroll taxes also fund the Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund, a separate Social Security program that pays disability benefits.

A 2022 report from the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees projected that the combined OASI and DI funds “would be able to pay scheduled benefits on a timely basis until 2035,” after which the combined funds’ reserves will become depleted. At this point, payroll tax income will be sufficient to pay only about 80% of scheduled benefits rather than all of the benefits.

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That shortfall will mainly impact the OASI trust fund rather than the DI trust fund. According to the Social Security Administration, the DI fund is no longer projected to be depleted within the 75-year projection period.

In terms of the OASI fund: Social Security for retirement and survivors’ purposes won’t run out of money when the reserve funds are depleted. However, the program will have to figure out a way to get by with less money while still ensuring that Social Security beneficiaries get the full, timely benefits to which they are legally entitled.

One option would be for Congress to restore the financial balance by immediately reducing scheduled benefits by about 20% to account for the projected shortfall, according to a September report from the Congressional Research Service. The required reduction would gradually increase to 26% by 2096.

Another option would be for Congress to raise the Social Security payroll tax rate from its current 12.4% to 15.6% following the 2035 depletion, and then gradually increase it to 16.7% by 2095.

While those options remain up in the air, other proposals have been bandied about by current members of Congress. As previously reported by GOBankingRates, a plan released over the summer by the Republican Study Committee would realign the Social Security full retirement age (FRA) to account for increases in life expectancy. Doing this means the FRA for Social Security would increase to age 70 from the current FRA of 66 and 67 years old, which would theoretically bolster Social Security funds.

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Another bill introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would increase monthly payments to Social Security recipients and also boost the program’s funding by applying the Social Security payroll tax on all income above $250,000. Currently, earnings above $147,000 aren’t subject to the Social Security tax.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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