Is Social Security healthy?
The Social Security trust fund has been running a surplus every year since 1982. In 2016, the program brought in $35 billion more than it paid out, according to the Social Security Trustees, and it now has some $2.85 trillion in reserves. But those annual surpluses are forecast to stop sometime in the next decade, as more Baby Boomers begin to claim benefits. That will eat into the reserves and tap the trust fund out by 2034—the year when today’s 51-year-olds reach full retirement age. That doesn’t mean Social Security checks will all of sudden come to a halt. But it’s projected that the program will have only enough revenue coming in to pay 77 percent of promised benefits. For someone expecting $2,000 a month, for instance, the payment could shrink to $1,540. Watchdogs say that making the program solvent for longer will require higher Social Security taxes, a slower growth in benefits, increasing the full retirement age—or all three. “Every year as a nation we do nothing,” said Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. “Benefits have to be cut or revenue increased, because the system is not allowed to pay out money that it does not have.”