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It's Time to Protect Social Security

The longer we wait, the harder it gets. Here are possible solutions from both sides of the political aisle

The Social Security Playbook illustration

Changes are needed to restore Social Security to long-term fiscal health. — Illustration by Pete Ryan

It's Time to protect Social Security logo

THE PROBLEM

There's a shortfall ahead… The Trust Fund is growing and is projected to peak at about $3.7 trillion in 2022. Then it heads down as boomer retirements accelerate and bonds are redeemed. Without reforms, the reserves would be exhausted in 2036. Why? Longer life spans and lower birthrates mean more beneficiaries as a percentage of the population, fewer workers are paying into the system because of high unemployment, and we haven't raised payroll taxes for the system since 1990. Social Security needs periodic adjustment to stay in actuarial balance. That's why it's required to have a 75-year outlook on its finances.

The Social Security Playbook Bar Graph end of year assets of the social security trust fund

The Social Security Trust Fund is projected to peak in 2022 and — without reforms — could be exhausted by 2036. — Graphic by Thomas Porostocky

…but it's not as bad as it looks The shortfall looks scary, but Social Security isn't unaffordable in the context of the huge U.S. economy. Benefits currently equal 4.84% of gross domestic product (GDP), and will rise to just 6.22% in 2035 and then decline, remaining between 5.9% and 6.0% of GDP from 2050 through 2085, according to the Social Security Administration. To close the funding gap, we'll need to raise revenue, lower costs, or do a little of both.
Social Security's Cost and Scheduled Tax Revenue as a Percentage of GDP chart

Social Security benefits are projected to remain between 5.9% and 6% of the GDP from 2050 to 2085. — Graphic by Thomas Porostocky

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