August marks the 75th anniversary of Social Security, a lifeline that tens of thousands of Nebraskans count on in their day-to-day lives.
Financed by earnings that people contribute during their working years, Social Security is the one reliable, guaranteed source of income for retirees. It provides a foundation of retirement income security for them to build upon, and it also offers economic security for disabled workers and the spouses and children of deceased workers. In Nebraska:
- One in six state residents (nearly 300,000 people) receives Social Security benefits.
- Social Security lifts nearly half of Nebraska’s retirees from poverty.
- Social Security is the only source of income for more than a quarter of Nebraskans age 65 plus. It makes up at least half the income for over half of Nebraskans 65 and older.
- Social Security pumps over $3 billion into Nebraska’s economy every year.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, claims that Social Security is on the brink of collapse are greatly exaggerated. Today, Social Security is financially strong and in no immediate danger of going broke. In fact, over the years it has built up a surplus of $2.5 trillion dollars. Even without changes, Social Security will be able to pay full benefits until 2037 and nearly three-quarters of promised benefits for decades beyond.
Social Security is not in crisis. The fact is American workers’ contributions pay for Social Security, and it hasn’t added anything to the deficit. Social Security needs changes so that it can continue to pay the benefits that have been promised to current and future generations - our children and grandchildren. The changes do not have to be drastic, but the sooner we act, the easier and more manageable the solutions will be.
With the other pillars of retirement security crumbling over the past decade – pensions, savings and investments, for example – Social Security will likely play an increasingly vital role. Although it was never meant to be a worker’s sole source of retirement income, it is the strongest and most reliable of the pillars. Among American seniors, 20 percent of married couples and about 41 percent of singles rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income.
Any changes to Social Security should be addressed as part of a broader conversation about how to help Americans prepare for a secure retirement. Companies can go out of business. Pensions can be terminated. The stock market can take a nose dive. Social Security benefits are always there -- in good times and bad. AARP believes that Social Security benefits for future generations should continue to be earned, guaranteed, inflation-protected, and last a lifetime.
For three-quarters of a century, Social Security has been a guaranteed floor of income security, helping people to live their lives with independence and dignity. After a lifetime of hard work, Americans and their families should collect on the retirement benefits they’ve earned and families in which a worker dies prematurely or becomes disabled should continue to have some measure of economic security.
As we celebrate 75 years of Social Security, AARP is fighting to make sure it is here for generations to come. To tell us what you think, go to aarp.org/strengthensocialsecurity.