Suggestions from policymakers, candidates and others include increasing the amount of income subject to payroll taxes; enrolling new state and local government employees in the Social Security system; changing the cost-of-living adjustment; reducing benefits for wealthy people; and raising the age of eligibility for full benefits.
Bob Geyen said people don't feel heard in Washington. "In my case, I've been paying into Social Security for 52 years. I've had some money in there and some skin in the game, and nobody seems to be interested."
Geyen, 67, a retired high school teacher and administrator from Shakopee, said it's important that all generations discuss the future of Medicare and Social Security.
"We have to bring this to our children," he said. "When I explained to them that 50 percent of my income comes from Social Security, their jaws dropped."
About a third of Minnesotans 65 and older would be in poverty without Social Security.
You've Earned a Say sessions, which Geyen volunteered to help lead, are geared to people of all ages.
"Anybody who has ever paid Social Security or Medicare taxes has a stake in what happens to these programs," said Seth Boffeli, AARP Minnesota spokesman.
Concern for grandchildren
Bell said she's concerned that Social Security might not be available for her grandchildren.
"I'm so thankful for what I have, but what is going to be left for them?" Bell said.
Margaret Aldrich, 87, of Bloomington, said that even with full Social Security benefits and frugal spending, finances are tight for many retired people — including herself.
"I live in my own house, but if I had to move to assisted living, that would be much more expensive. I don't know if I could afford that."
AARP Minnesota will staff a booth at the State Fair, Aug. 23 to Sept. 3 in St. Paul, to gather suggestions for protecting Medicare and Social Security.
That information, along with viewpoints gathered at other You've Earned a Say sessions, will be shared with policymakers and candidates this fall.
Washington is not expected to consider any changes until after the presidential and congressional elections in November.
To voice your opinion, fill out our questionnaire about Social Security and Medicare online. For a list of You've Earned a Say sessions, check the events calendar on the AARP Minnesota website. Watch a discussion about Social Security and Medicare at 9 p.m. July 19 on AARP Live on RFD-TV. Call the show at 1-877-731-6733 toll-free or post a comment on Facebook or send a tweet to @AARPLive.
Mary Van Beusekom is a writer living in Excelsior, Minn.
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