Social Security: The Foundation of Economic Security

March 21, 2016 • By

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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, Retirement and Disability Policy

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


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  4. Jerry D.

    Why haven’t Social Security Asks for the money back with interest for Congress that they had no right to take because that money belonged to the American people. I remember when this happened and I will not rest until this is resolved.

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  7. heehawman

    What gets me in Mississippi, is when a disabled person works for three years, gets laid off (took three years to get that job), draws unemployment of $111 per week for 6 months, his SSI gets lowered to $299.00 per month while he is drawing unemployment, and considering all the taxes he paid in while working, he now gets $15.00 per month in snap benefits, lollllll and illegal aliens comes over here, never paid into the system, gets the full amount of SSI. Snap, subsidized housing, wow and an American citizen, in his 60s a senior, been disabled for years, but still worked part time, paid in taxes, now on unemployment cause he got laid off work in April, 2019. Now that is something that an American senior citizen is treated worse than an illegal alien.

  8. Bernardo

    I understand that Social Security, as we know it today, will probably run out in 2034-I assume this is because Congress is using Social Security dollars to pay for other things unrelated to Social Security. My question is: Why is Congress allowed to do this, and why should American workers pay into a System which may not be there when they are eligible to receive monies for a program they have contributed to for many years?

    • Vonda V.

      Hello Bernardo, thank you for using our blog. Social Security is a pay-as-you-go system. Social Security taxes collected from today’s workers pay the benefits of today’s retirees. Any funds in excess of what is needed to pay today’s benefits are invested in special issue, U.S. Government, interest-bearing securities. This investment –the purchase of U.S. Government securities– is what constitutes the “borrowing” that people are sometimes concerned about. Any funds that have been “borrowed” from the Social Security Trust Funds have always been paid back in full, plus interest.

      Please check out our Trust Fund Frequently Asked Questions page for more information. Thanks!

  9. Bibiana

    I am a 60yr old retiree. Is it possible for me to adopt a grand child so that i can help her continue her studies?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Bibiana. Thank you for your question. Under current law, Social Security can only pay benefits to grandchildren if certain conditions are met. The biological parents of the children must be deceased or disabled, or you must have legally adopted them. See Benefits For Grandchildren for more information. We hope this helps.

  10. Karen D.

    I need a benifits planning query

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