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.