Social Security: Get Ready for Changes


Social Security: Get Ready for Changes


When I was thirty-five, I questioned whether or not I would ever collect the money I was paying into Social Security. I’m sixty-eight now.  I’m getting my Social Security money and, like most other retired Americans, I need it.  But the same question I had when I was a young man is the same one working men and women are still asking; “will the money I pay into Social Security be there for me when I retire?”

There’s a lot of posturing going on right now on Capital Hill about the future of what many believe is the most successful government program ever created.  Elected officials, economists, policy makers and special interest groups are wrestling with the issues of how to make the system financially solvent for our children and grandchildren.

They’re facing the classic good news-bad news scenario.

The good news is, we’re living longer.

The bad news is, we’re living longer.

Which means we’re going to be drawing from Social Security for more years than our parents did.

When the Social Security Act was signed in 1935 and people retired at age 65, they only lived another decade or so.  Now, people who retire at age 65 live another 20 or even 30 years. And there are fewer workers paying into the system now.  Ten years ago there were 5 workers supporting each retiree. Twenty years from now there will be fewer than three workers for each retiree.

Do the math.  The numbers don’t add up.

So what’s going to happen?  Will the system be scrapped entirely?  I don’t think so. Polls show Americans strongly support the Social Security system.  And I’m convinced that lawmakers like being re-elected.

But changes are inevitable. I think we will see a gradual increase in the early retirement age, and maybe a decrease in benefits paid to future retirees.  Kentucky Senator Rand Paul favors a plan to reduce benefits to those in higher income brackets who do not depend on Social Security as much as others.

What all of us need to be aware of is that changes are coming.  And we will likely need to continue working longer, perhaps until we reach 70.  As long as we remain healthy, that shouldn’t be a problem.  But we need flexibility.

In her book “A Long Bright Future”, author Laura L. Carstensen (who recently participated in the Louisville Free Public Library’s program Boom Time) says older workers need to consider options like working part time or even embarking on a new “second career.” She promotes incentives like “phased retirements, flexible work schedules, job retraining, and the ability to work from home.”

I like those ideas.

In order to insure a successful and fulfilling life after age 65, we need to think and plan carefully.  We must examine our goals and options, taking into consideration not only our financial needs, but our personal health as well as our real social and personal needs.

We need to remember that when we finally reach the time we can retire, we are not only retiring from something – we’re retiring to something.