For a lot of Americans, that clanging early morning alarm is more threatening than a man in a white van asking for help finding his puppy. Wiping jagged bits of sleep from your eyes, you bribe yourself to get going with the promise that there is light at the end of the tunnel; someday, someday, there will be no more work – just retirement, Social Security payments and maybe even a watercolor class at the Learning Annex. You drag yourself from civilized dreams to start another day in the world.
Ah, yes, retirement. At 66, you’ll be repaid for your hard work and all of that money you’ve put into the system for decades. Sure, Social Security benefits aren’t that much, $1,503 was the average in January, but you’re a simple person, with simple needs. It’ll be enough. You sip your coffee, look out of the kitchen window and envision the day when you’re no longer a cog in the wheel.
These are nice thoughts to get us through stressful days. Sadly, a very modest repayment for our tenure as wage slaves might be asking too much in the future. The Social Security Board of Trustees publishes a report each year that assesses how the program’s doing. For the last 35 years, the Trustees haven’t been very optimistic regarding how long the money is going to last. The 2020 report has warned that, by 2035, we’ll have blown through Social Security “cash reserves and will be able to pay out only what it takes in year-to-year in Social Security taxes.” If that happens, the newly retired and disabled will only get about 79 percent of benefits (AARP.org). Of course, with Corona and all, some analysts are suggesting that Social Security could be history by 2028 (CNBC.com)…
But, never fear! That guy (who cut Jackie O’s trees down) over at the White House has a plan! In a stroke of pure genius, that guy proposes “$26 billion in cuts to Social Security between 2020 and 2029” (Fool.com)! Doesn’t that sound wonderful? I mean, it just makes sense to further decimate an already ailing social program. That guy’s crew also thinks that raising the retirement age to 70 is a pretty nifty idea (Fool.com). Since we’re living longer, just think about all that time you’ll have to enjoy your retirement (the current life expectancy for an American is 78.93 years)! A problem inherent with raising the retirement age is that, as Americans, we’re a pretty unhealthy lot. At 69 years old, and a lifetime of McDonald’s, not all of us are going to be able to load sixteen tons of number 9 coal.
However, there are some other ideas out there. Former Vice President Joe Biden has been looking into “means-testing” as one way to make sure Social Security keeps rolling. Means-testing would look at the annual income of Social Security recipients and decide if they really need the money; based on income, people would either receive a reduced check or none at all (Fool.com). Although these people would have paid into the system just like you and me, they’d get nothing in return. Obviously, wealthy citizens shouldn’t be penalized for making good life choices, but would they really notice if that couple of grand wasn’t in their account? Also, no matter how people want to fight it, America has always been a little socialist – we take care of the vulnerable. Hey, childless me doesn’t complain about a school tax, the rich shouldn’t complain about helping Grandma Ida.
We need Social Security. We need to ensure that our elderly and disabled aren’t eating cat food out of desperation. You can’t take it with you and no one here gets out alive, so let’s make the journey as pleasant as possible.
Bourke Accounting bookkeepers and tax preparers aren’t financial planners, but considering how much they know, they could be. Why don’t you sit down with a Bourke Accounting rep and allow them to offer ideas for a painless retirement? Since Social Security is shaky, you could benefit from some good advice from our knowledgeable Bourke Accounting staff.
Written by Sue H.