General

Social Security: The Foundation of Economic Security

March 21, 2016 • By

Last Updated: August 19, 2021

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt established Social Security in 1935, he saw the program as a fundamental way to advance economic fairness and social justice. Social Security has grown and improved to fulfill FDR’s vision, and we have just completed a year celebrating the 80th anniversary of this important program.

Today, Social Security’s insurance protection is the foundation of retirement security for almost all American workers and families. The average Social Security benefit is modest – about $1,340 a month – yet this benefit is the main income for most seniors. For two in three seniors who receive it, Social Security is more than half of their total income. That includes one in three where it makes up all or almost all of their income. Social Security is especially important for communities of color, women, and other vulnerable groups.

At the American Society on Aging’s Aging in America conference on March 23, I will be honored to share vital information about “The State of Seniors in Poverty,” along with the distinguished Kathy Greenlee of the Administration for Community Living.

For example, many people know that 10 percent of seniors, or 4.6 million individuals, live in poverty. Yet many don’t know just how important Social Security is in preventing seniors from falling into poverty. If today’s seniors had to rely on only their income from sources other than Social Security, fully 4 in 10 would be poor. Social Security is our nation’s most effective poverty prevention program; its retirement, disability, and survivor benefits keep 21 million Americans out of poverty, including 14 million seniors. So, keeping Social Security strong is one of the best ways that we, as a nation, can address senior poverty and promote economic security for all.

“But,” you might ask, “what about the future of Social Security?” Actually, Social Security’s finances are far stronger than many people realize. The program as a whole is sufficiently funded until 2034, and after that, it is about three-quarters fully financed. This is a good time to begin a national conversation about how to keep Social Security strong for the very long term – and there are many options available to lawmakers. According to recent public opinion research, including studies conducted by the Pew Research Center and the National Academy of Social Insurance, Americans understand Social Security’s enduring value and support preserving benefits for future generations.

Social Security has had a very successful first 80 years, and I am confident about its long-term future. We at the Social Security Administration look forward to the next 80 years, and beyond, of continuing to serve the American people and building on FDR’s vision of promoting economic security and fairness for the American people.

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About the Author

Virginia P. Reno, Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Disability Policy, Social Security Administration

Comments

  1. Sebastián R.

    Since the pension of the SS is not a salary, why pensioners should pay taxes for that?. That is something that I do not consider fair.
    We have been paying SS for years and years, and now when we expect to receive the pension that by justice we deserve, we see that is an amount reduced by the deduction of tax. SS’s pension should not be considered an income.

  2. Karl

    This article reflects the lack of life planning by most Americans. Never learning to live within one’s means produces a dependency and reliance on social programs. As our society embraces socialism this dependency will only increase.

    • marty

      What’s this about ” embracing ” socialism? We are aware that the Obama administration is trying to push socialism down our throats. However, all do not respond like a herd of buffalo with rings in there noses to be pulled wherever and whenever the mastermind dictates. Most U. S. citizens are still free to think for themselves. Socialist thinking doesn’t work well in a Free Republic. Study civics, the United States is a Republic with the power originating at the State level and the Federal government serving the States not visa versa. Socialism only works where the federal government has all authority……the U.S. does not have that arrangement.

      FORGET SOCIALISM, NOT AN ACCEPTABLE PRACTICE.

      • prof e.

        Obama is not a socialist, Bernie Sanders is a socialist. He is not embracing socialism. Obamacare is little market places and very capitalistic causing competition among insurance companies and for most low income people it has helped.. I am a business professor. also we should stick to improving SS and avoid political debates

  3. marty

    First, understand SS taxation (payroll taxes); unlike any other federal payroll deduction. Social Security was established as a TRUST FUND with an assigned Trustee/Administrater to oversee the monies incoming and outgoing for this fund only. There was to be no connection to the yearly budget or intermingling of funds from other forms of taxation. SS was a stand alone entity; a trust fund. The money collected in would be payed out to entitled recipients according to the law written at that time.

    That was 80 years ago. Subsequently the law that was made to help retired, their survivors and the disabled has been raped, disjointed, and viciously attacked by administrations and congressional officials in the name of a balanced budget or other self serving excuse. No individual political party is to be denied participation in these activities, all dipped there hands equally into the Trust Fund Savings of Social Security to satisfy some special interest.

    By law Trust Fund SS money was not to be mingled with general tax funds or used to finance anything other than for its stated purpose. So, how did they get around the law? Congress over the years, administration after administration has BORROWED from SS to a sum which is unrecoverable by Social Security. Administration/Congress has literally stollen huge sums of money from our retirement fund. Our Trustees over the years did nothing to protect us, and our government took our hard earned money, but also we haven’t said a word and continue to reelect the same representatives…..who are we to say anything, it was our savings account.

    Just as they now tax us (also in some states) for money that has already been taxed, we complain here about it, I hear it in restaurants, on the streets, but who’s really doing anything about it? Will our elected representatives? Now there’s the biggest mistake as a solution. People in Washington keep saying we are a Democracy; we are not. We are a Republic!!!! In a Republic the power is invested in the states, we elect representatives from the state, send them to Washington on our behalf. We elect a president to serve us, not for him to dictate to us. Remember “We the people”, we are the people, we are the U.S.A. I DO NOT SUGGEST A REVOLT OR UPRISING, SIMPLY STOP BEING SO QUIET AND COMPLACENT. COMPLAINING AMONG EACH OTHER GETS NOTHING, IN FACT NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR YOUR COMPLAINTS, WE ALL HAVE PROBLEMS. USE YOUR VOICE CONSTRUCTIVELY FOR POSITIVE RESULTS. KNOW THE TRUTH, THE FACTS, BEFORE OPENING UP. BE POSITIVE WITH THE RIGHT ATTITUDE, NO WHINING OR CRYING ALLOWED. IF YOU WANT SERIOUS CONSIDERATION, APPROACH THE ISSUE IN A VERY SERIOUS MANNER; ADULTS ONLY NOT FOR CHILDREN OR CRY BABIES.

    If there is a time to stand up it’s now. We are 18 Trillion dollars in federal debt, not including what is owed to SS, what the Individual States owe (at least two at or near bankruptcy), The Federal credit rating for the first time in history reduced due to the practices of the the present administration. State credit ratings at a nation wide low, on average. College Credit with low pay back. Etc., etc. And there are some who believe the hype we are in recovery and therefore spend. We need to wake up and face facts. Doomsday? No! Just not yet, the smart people don’t let it happen.

    On Friday, February 26, 2016, Tom Stuckey wrote:

    Sent from my IPad

    On Friday, February 26, 2016, Tom Stuckey wrote:
    states owe (several near or at bankruptcy), College

  4. DUANE A.

    IF SOCIAL SECURITY IS SO GREAT; WHY DON’T THEY TAKE THE CAP OFF OF THE PAYROLL TAX THAT SUPPORTS IT SO IT CAN REALLY BENIFIT THE PEOPLE IN THIS COUTRY THAT REALLY NEED IT. OUR WHOLE FINANCIAL SYSTEM WORKS ONLY FOR THE RICH AND POWERFUL. SOCIAL SECURITY IS THE ONLY THING THE AVERAGE PERSON HAS TO RELY ON IN OLD AGE AND THEY’RE SLOWLY DOING AWAY WITH IT. JUST LIKE THIS YEAR, NO RAISE IN BENEFITS BECAUSE OF GAS PRICES. THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING ELSE WENT UP AND THE PRICE OF GAS IS NOT AN IMPORTANT PART OF AN OLD PERSON’S BUDGET SINCE THEY DON’T HAVE TO DRIVE TO WORK ANYMORE, AND ON TOP OF THAT; THE PRICE OF GAS HAS WENT BACK UP. IF WE QUIT FIGHTING ALL THESE UNWINNABLE WARS, QUIT SHIPPING JOBS OUT OF OUR COUNTRY, QUIT LETTING ILLEGAL ALIENS IN TO TAKE THE JOBS WE CAN’T SHIP OUT, QUIT LETTING THE SPECULATORS RUN OUR COUNTRY, AND AS A COUNTRY LEARN HOW TO LIVE WITHIN OUR MEANS AND QUIT BORROWING ALL THIS MONEY TO TEMPORAIRLY PROP OUR COUNTRY UP; WE MIGHT JUST HAVE THE MEANS TO TAKE CARE OF ALL OUR HARD WORKING PEOPLE. REMEMBER WHAT PRESIDENT EISENHOWER SAID. “BEWARE OF THE MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX”. I THINK HE SHOULD KNOW WHAT HE WAS TALKING ABOUT. HE WAS BOTH A GENERAL AND A PRESIDENT.

  5. Patricia G.

    No human being can survive on Social Security alone. Many have to choose between buying medicines and medical care (Medicare also has to be paid for and it comes out of the SS checks! No everyone can afford extra for the plan D (medications) or gap policy – Medicare stinks) or buying food and paying electric/water bills. I agree with previous comments that Social Security retirement payments should NOT be taxed.

  6. dan

    Government has take my money for over 40 years. When a dollar would buy 10 loafs of bread, they took a dollar. Now they will pay me back with a dollar that won’t buy 1/2 loaf of bread. They collapse the economy so there are less workers paying, they take money to support other government plans, then they say there isn’t enough money left. Get out of the way of business and let the economy grow again and the money will be there. Stress education and family life will improve, and taxes will increase through, earned, higher wages. Stop the Socialist agenda and give people a reason to excel. Government for and by the people is not to be twisted into Government payouts for the millions ( of able bodied potential workers ) paid for by the rest of the people. Social security and medicare taxes are part of the net income and is taxed as if was in our pocket to spend. Medical bills were tax deductable, now the first 10% of your income is not deductable for any medical expenses. (2 years ago it was 7.5%). So, you can be taxed on necessary medical expenses plus being taxed on money you were already taxed on. And, thanks to Obama, medical equipment will get taxed, which will get passed on to you as part cost of the equipment.

  7. James H.

    Susan, can you tell me who is going to take care of the people whose self invested funds I lost the market crashes just before they retire. It would not be the first time and I recall oboes stopping at our house asking for food in the 30s and 40s when I was a child. We don’t want to see it again.

  8. Jerome A.

    I get two mailings of the social security blog each month. Please remove/delete one of them.

  9. Joe F.

    America as a whole does Not know that when one is forced into Social Security Disability, the Government holds back 33% of what you should be getting. It’s not like we wanted to go on Social Security, however what options does one have whom is 55 years young and had a Nasty Fall and broke his back..The Government will not tell you this as they are literally stealing your money that you paid into Social Security..If this is not theft and fraud…then what is…I live in Poverty. We did not get a raise in pay this year due to the price of gasoline going down..Did they think about how Food has almost doubled to purchase..

    • Susan

      No, they assume that since you pay less for gas, you have more to pay for food. If you don’t have a car and don’t purchase gas, I guess you’re out of luck. If you don’t have enough social security money to pay for food, what are you spending it on? Maybe you could tighten your belt a little on other things. That’s what I have to do and I’m not on Social Security. In case you didn’t realize it, no one has gotten a raise in the workplace either.

  10. Maria

    I am worried, because I am a widow thinking that when I get retired I will get my husband and my share at the same time, but seems the SS only gives now one the higher and I ask why?

    • S R.

      It is because you are only one person. You can either take yours or half of his benefit, whichever is higher. If he dies first, you begin getting his payment if it is higher. You will no longer receive yours.

    • Ray F.

      Hi Maria. It is true that you will only get the (one) higher benefit. Sometimes, a person may be eligible to more than one benefit at the same time. For example, a person may be entitled as a retired worker on his or her own record and as a spouse or a widow on another record. Under current law, a person’s benefit amount can never exceed the highest single benefit amount to which that person is entitled. As a widow, you can start receiving reduced benefits as early as age 60. (age 50 or over if you are disabled). At this time, if you are also eligible for retirement benefits on your own record (but haven’t applied yet), you may have an additional option. You can apply for retirement or survivors benefits first and switch to the other (higher) benefit at a later date. For more information and to speak to one of our representatives, call our toll free number 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Thanks!

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