Social Security: Majority of Adults Worry About Social Security Running Out in Their Lifetime — Including Boomers

Couple going through financial problems.
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Concerns about the future of Social Security have been around almost as long as the program itself — and it just turned 88 years old. Those concerns have not eased in recent years. In fact, the vast majority of Americans now worry that Social Security will run out of money in their lifetime, according to a new survey from Nationwide. Even most baby boomers are worried — and many of them already collect retirement benefits.

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The Nationwide Retirement Institute 2023 Social Security survey, which polled 1,806 U.S. adults, found that all generations are worried about Social Security running out of funding. Nearly three-quarters of Gen Z (74%) and millennials (73%) fret about it, while a slightly smaller percentage of boomers (71%) do. The most pessimistic generation is Gen X, with 82% saying they are worried.

Perhaps even more concerning is that 45% of Gen Z and 39% of millennials believe they “will not get a dime” of the Social Security benefits they have earned, according to the study. More than three-quarters of both Gen Z and millennials anticipate that they’ll need to keep working in retirement because Social Security will not pay enough.

Social Security’s future has come under greater scrutiny this year because of a looming funding shortfall tied to the program’s Old Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund.

That fund is expected to run out of money in a decade. When it does, Social Security will have to rely solely on payroll taxes, which pay about 77% of current benefits. Some retirees could face a cut of more than $17,000 a year, according to one estimate. Many of those retirees will be boomers.

Are You Retirement Ready?

Concerns that Social Security will run out of money might be overstated, considering that it still gets more than three-quarters of its money from payroll taxes. Even so, a growing percentage of Americans now seek the advice of financial professionals to help them better prepare for retirement.

More than two in five Gen Zers (43%) and 39% of millennials plan to ask a financial professional about Social Security benefits, the Nationwide survey found. That compares to only 22% of Gen X and 6% of baby boomers.

Of those currently consulting with a financial professional, more than half (53%) said they are getting advice on how and when to file for Social Security benefits. That figure is well up from 35% in 2014. More than two-fifths (43%) now expect their financial professional to provide Social Security advice — a 14-point increase from a decade earlier.

Many Americans can use the advice. The Nationwide survey found that 51% of respondents lack sufficient knowledge about what percentage of their income is or will be replaced by Social Security in retirement. More than two-thirds (70%) don’t know that Social Security is protected against inflation through annual cost-of-living adjustments.

“A decade of research into Americans’ views on Social Security confirms that working with a trusted financial professional isn’t just beneficial, it’s vital to maximizing your benefits — especially as retirement approaches,” Tina Ambrozy, senior vice president of Strategic Customer Solutions at Nationwide, said in a statement. “Social Security education is an empowerment tool and a proven strategy for creating financial resilience.”

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