Social Security 2023: 4 Things Gen X Can Expect
Sandwiched between their baby boomer parents and their millennial juniors, Generation X often gets lost in the social and political rivalry between the bookend demographics. But in terms of Social Security, middle-aged Americans are staring down turmoil that the boomers won’t encounter and the younger sets don’t yet have to worry about.
Born between 1965-1980, the oldest Gen Xers are now just four years away from being eligible for Social Security in 2027. The youngest will have to wait until at least 2042. Either way, the Social Security program that awaits all of them might look much different than the one they were promised.
In many ways, it already does.
Congress Sealed Gen X’s Fate in 1983
Eligible workers can claim their Social Security benefits as young as 62, but claiming early comes with the tradeoff of smaller payments. Only those who wait until their full retirement age get 100% of what’s coming to them.
Unlike the baby boomers, all Gen Xers become eligible for their full Social Security benefits at the same age — 67.
The minimum age for receiving full benefits was 65 from the dawn of the program in 1935 and remained the same for nearly half a century. Then, Congress drafted the Social Security Amendments of 1983, which mandated a new retirement age of 67 phased in over 22 years.
Gen X is the first generation of Americans that become eligible for full benefits at the new higher age without exception.
Two years might not seem like a lot, but every 12-month increase in the full retirement age translates to a roughly 6.5% reduction in benefits.
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Gen X and the Countdown to 2035
Gen Xers who are 50 today will become eligible for early Social Security benefits when they turn 62 in 2035. Those who are 55 will be 67, and therefore eligible for full retirement benefits that same year. However, “full” might look much different then.
Social Security is funded by trusts, which the SSA says will be depleted in 13 years. When that happens, incoming taxes will be enough to pay for only 75% of scheduled benefits unless something changes. That change — whatever it may be — can only come through Congressional action.
So, What’s in Store for Gen X in 12 Years?
When time forces its hand, Congress will be faced with two politically unappealing options — cutting benefits or raising taxes.
According to the SSA, “The Social Security Board of Trustees project that changes equivalent to an immediate reduction in benefits of about 13%, or an immediate increase in the combined payroll tax rate from 12.4% to 14.4%, or some combination of these changes, would be sufficient to allow full payment of the scheduled benefits for the next 75 years.”
In short, either Gen Xers will get smaller Social Security checks than they were promised or they’ll receive full benefits — with millennials, Gen Z and Generation Alpha picking up the tab in the form of higher payroll taxes.
So, Are Lawmakers Close to Working It Out?
According to the SSA, “Since the inception of the Social Security program in 1935, scheduled benefits have always been paid on a timely basis through a series of modifications in the law that will continue.”
Over the last 30 years, more than a hundred lawmakers, officials and special-interest organizations have proposed changes to Social Security, from the Concord Coalition in 1993 to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders this February. Typically, Democrats accuse Republicans of seeking to cut benefits and Republicans accuse Democrats of wanting to raise taxes.
In reality, one, the other or some combination of both will have to happen if Social Security is going to remain solvent beyond 2035.
According to the New York Times, President Biden has proposed adding a new tier of payroll taxes for high earners with incomes over $400,000, but that would extend solvency for only five years. He also wants to make several benefits more generous.
There appears to be little agreement on the GOP side, but the Times says that a group called the Republican Study Committee calls for “significant benefit cuts for all but the lowest-income workers” and gradually raising the full retirement age from 67 to 70.
For the youngest Gen Xers, that would push retirement all the way to 2050.
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