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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

En español | Will Social Security be there for you? The answer is yes, but the future strength of the program depends on the outcome of a debate now raging in Washington. That debate often links Social Security to the ballooning federal deficit, although the program plays no direct role in the nation's debt and currently enjoys an enormous surplus.

See also: Social Security: Fears vs. Facts.

So, what's the problem? Social Security faces pressures both political and demographic. Even as it's been swept up in the debt issue, the system is bracing for a wave of boomer retirements that, combined with today's longer life spans, will exhaust the program's surplus funds over the next 25 years. At that point, Social Security would have only enough funds from current revenue to pay out about 75 cents on every dollar of promised benefits.

That scenario has younger Americans wondering whether Social Security will be able to meet their needs. A 2010 AARP survey found that just 25 percent of Americans ages 30 to 49 are confident about Social Security's future — compared with 58 percent of people 65 and over.

Here's the good news: There's time to implement small changes that can put Social Security in balance for the long term. Think of Social Security as a gigantic battleship that turns slowly: The sooner we start making adjustments, the smaller the required changes.

Read on to understand the debate, the issues, and the options.

Next: How does Social Security really work? >>

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