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Counting On Social Security in Retirement? Not So Fast

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Social Security can go a long way toward enjoying a more comfortable retirement, but it’s possible to depend on your benefits too much.

Your benefits were only designed to replace around 40% of your pre-retirement income. In addition, the average retiree receives around $1,668 per month, or roughly $20,000 per year, according to the Social Security Administration.

There are also a couple of other reasons why Social Security may not be as reliable in the future. If you’re expecting to depend on your benefits for a sizable portion of your income, it may be time to rethink your strategy.

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1. Social Security cuts are on the table

The Social Security Board of Trustees recently released its latest report on the state of the program, and it revealed that benefits could be cut up to 23% by 2034.

Social Security depends on payroll taxes to fund benefits. But in recent years, the money coming in from taxes has fallen short of the amount paid out in benefits. As a result, the Social Security Administration has had to dip into its trust funds to cover the deficit and continue paying benefits in full.

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However, those trust funds won’t last forever, and they’re expected to run dry by 2034. When that happens, the Social Security Administration expects that the money coming in from taxes will only be enough to cover around 77% of scheduled benefits — meaning your checks could potentially be cut by up to 23%.

The good news is that lawmakers are trying to find a solution to avoid these cuts. So far, though, there’s nothing concrete, and it’s unclear what the future holds for the program.

2. Your benefits are losing buying power

Even if the program doesn’t face cuts, your monthly checks won’t go as far as they used to. In fact, since 2000, Social Security benefits have lost roughly 40% of their buying power, according to a report from the Senior Citizens League.

In other words, Social Security hasn’t effectively kept up with inflation over the last two decades, and if this trend continues, it will be increasingly difficult to survive on your benefits in retirement.

The Social Security Administration has tried to combat this problem with annual cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, but that still hasn’t been enough. In fact, despite the massive 5.9% COLA retirees received in late 2021, inflation has soared a whopping 8.6% over the past year, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How to prepare

Social Security can be a helpful source of income in retirement, but for many seniors, it won’t be enough to live comfortably. With potential cuts looming and benefits rapidly losing buying power, it’s more important than ever to have a healthy stash of savings.

If you haven’t retired yet, it may be worthwhile to consider working a few more years or finding other ways to strengthen your retirement fund. Picking up a side gig in retirement is also a possibility, and the extra income means you won’t need to rely as much on Social Security.

While nobody knows for certain what will happen with Social Security, it never hurts to start preparing now. By increasing your savings and reducing your dependence on your benefits, you can rest easier knowing you’re ready for anything.

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