People in their 50s who are still working can start to see an eventual end to daily work down the road. In another 15 years or so, these 50-plus workers will look forward to exploring retirement and enjoying the benefits of more leisure time. Having spent a life dedicated to employment and contributing to society, now comes the time when promises of an easier life are fulfilled and realized.

At least, that’s been the idyllic dream for 70 odd years, since the start of social security.

Today, the financial crisis is hitting social security, and it’s not pretty for many Americans. In June, Americans got to see the annual report from The Social Security Board of Trustees. The big news? Well, the board restated last year’s projection that the Social Security fund would be dry by 2033 – that’s 20 years from now, just about the time when 50-somethings today may be relying on Social Security as their sole income.

is social security a broken promise

Social security money comes from a variety of trust funds, several of which are expected to deplete their financial resources before 2033. Some of these trust funds will run out of money long before 2033. CNN Money reports that the federal Disability Insurance Fund is expected to run out of money soon, possibly as early as 2016. Another fund, the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance fund is expected to last longer.

Why is Social Security depleting so fast and how should you change your retirement financial plan because of it? And how much Social Security will you end up getting? You have been paying into the system your whole life, but will that matter when it comes time for you to retire?

Aging Population and Life Expectancy

Life expectancy is rising for both men and women. This has a significant impact on the fund. As highlighted by a recent article, when Social Security was created in the 1940’s, the life expectancy was 72.7, and for women, it was at 74.7 years, two years longer.

Estimates show that the average life expectancy for men is now 20 years longer (around 85 years old) and 22 years longer for women. This means that by 2033, there will be more people eligible to draw from the fund and they will expect to draw from it for a longer period.

Another major contributors to this gloomy outlook for social security is the aging workforce. When Social Security was initiated, there were 16 workers to every one fund beneficiary.

Now there are only three workers to every one beneficiary, and soon that number will fall to two, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. As more people leave the workforce, there are less people to contribute to the fund, an imbalance that will only continue to grow.

Financial Alternatives

What are the alternatives to finding that the coffers are empty by the time you retire? There are two ways to approach this question.

  • Increase the amount you save now
  • Reduce the amount you will need to live on when you retire

Both of those seem obvious statements, but how do you actually achieve either one of them? Or preferably both?

Increase Savings

Setting aside more money for retirement now will lead to a much more stable retirement. Anything you can do to save more money into accounts like a Roth IRA or 401k will pay big dividends in the future.

Even starting with just $20 per month would be better than letting more time go by without contributing toward retirement.

The long and short of it is many Americans that are expecting the government to fund their retirement may be sorely mistaken. Taking retirement savings into your own hand is a smart move that can avoid that problem.

Not sure how to save more money? Here are 70 ways to save money – you don’t have to do but just a few of them to make a big impact on your ability to contribute to retirement today.

Not sure if you are saving enough money? Look at the somewhat dismal average retirement savings by age.

You also need to be up to date on how much money you can save in various types of accounts:

Not sure where to open up a Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, or SEP IRA or Solo 401k?

Reduce Daily Costs

How can we bring in more income, curb expenses and save money for our eventual retirement? Think about the daily expenses that may or may not be crucial to your financial existence. For example, how much do you spend in a month on lunches, coffee, gas or Direct TV entertainment?

Some tips to help you save a couple of bucks each week include car-pooling to work, eating home-packed lunches and skipping that increasingly expensive 2nd cup of coffee from your favorite barista.

Did you know that if you spend $5 on coffee every work day, that averages to $25 a week, $100 a month (that’s your phone bill!) or $1,200 a year. (Don’t give up coffee just yet; here are 17 ways to save money on coffee!)

Think about how those small amounts of money we spend daily add up in significant amounts. If those few dollars are invested instead, it can easily become a favorable retirement nest egg.

Reduce Living Expenses

Depending on where you are in your career, you may be able to move to a location that has a lower cost of living. The annual Cost of Living Index lets users compare various locations in the U.S. While it charges people to access the data, spending a few dollars to save thousands might be a good investment. CBS recently used this data to compile its list of the Ten Cheapest Places to Live in the U.S. finding that Harlingen, Texas was the cheapest, as it had been for the three previous years.

Likewise some other living expenses are things like healthcare. You need to plan for retirement healthcare and make sure you can afford quality medical care.

Work Longer

Delaying your retirement is another way to reduce the amount you will require post retirement. The Social Security Administration website provides a retirement planner that can help you better understand the best age for you to start drawing benefits. You’ll tend to receive more as you delay the date to start drawing benefits.

Under the current act, you are eligible to draw benefits at any time between ages 62 and 70, the premise being that if you start early you will receive a lesser amount over a longer period and conversely if you start later you will receive a greater amount over a shorter period.

Don’t underestimate how much it will cost for you to live comfortably as a retiree. Medical costs, home maintenance, travel and leisure and family support all contribute to the costs of living as a retiree. And as you see around you, those costs are rising each year.

Planning is the key to being able to meet both the needs of living as a retiree and being able to enjoy your retirement. It is never too soon to start planning for the day you find yourself as a retiree; you can also never start saving for retirement too late. Earn more money now to ensure your continued financial existence, especially if Social Security’s engine runs out of gas before you do.

Calculate How Much Social Security I Will Get

The Social Security Administration has a Quick Calculator that doesn’t look at your individual earnings as reported to the SSA. You can use that to make an estimate of the payments you would be due in retirement.

If you want to know exactly what you would get in retirement from Social Security you need to use the Retirement Estimator.

photo credit: hundrednorth via photopin cc


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Comments | 3 Responses

  1. says

    Social Security was never intended to support retirees in their chosen lifestyle. It was always supposed to be a safety net, but many retirees think differently. I am not relying on Social Security only although I will retire in the next 4 years. At best, you should view Social Security as a supplement to retirement.

  2. says

    Good post Jeff. As a fellow financial planner you understand that need for younger workers to focus on building a retirement nest egg that will support them in the event the Social Security goes away totally or in part. I suspect that Social Security will be around for my three kids (who range in age from 20 t0 almost 25) but the benefits available and the retirement ages will be modified from what we have in place today.

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