A majority of participants at a recent AARP New Mexico community conversation indicated that Social Security is very important to having a secure retirement.
Audience members were polled during the state AARP’s kickoff of You’ve Earned a Say, a national conversation AARP is conducting with its members and the general public on the future of Social Security and Medicare. The event took place March 22 at the Hotel Albuquerque and is the first of several to be scheduled around the state throughout the year.
“There’s been a lot of discussion in Washington about changing these programs to deal with the deficit,” said Gene Varela, AARP New Mexico Associate State Director for Community Outreach. “Any changes to these programs need to be looked at carefully and thoughtfully.
“And we want to involve you in the process. We want to have an open discussion across the country,” Varela said.
The year-long initiative is called You’ve Earned a Say because AARP believes that people have earned these benefits by paying into Social Security and Medicare for years. They deserve to know what politicians are talking about when considering making changes to these vital programs and to have their voices heard about the futures of these programs.
Audience members, which totaled 130, had plenty to say ranging from how important the program is to them to how the Congress’ dysfunction isn’t helping to how minor changes could make the programs more solvent without hurting beneficiaries.
“We can’t have Social Security be less than it is now in 2037,” said Charles Atwood, of Albuquerque. “If they raise the retirement age somewhat – that’s a reasonable thing to do. Some minor tweaks would make the program solvent for a long-long time.”
2037 is the year that Social Security is predicted to start having major financial solvency issues, being only able to pay 70 percent of an individual’s benefits rather than the full 100 percent.
When asked how confident people were that Social Security would be there for them throughout their retirement, 30 percent of the audience said they were “very confident”; 57 percent said “somewhat confident”; and 11 percent said they were “not confident”.
The numbers were similar for Medicare but more people were concerned the program would not be around in the future; 22 percent said they were “very confident” that Medicare would be there; 49 percent said they were “somewhat confident”; while 21 percent said they were “not confident”.
“With the current elected Congress there’s so much anti-Medicare discussion that there is no way I can be very confident that the benefits will be there a year from now,” said Iris Gersh, of Albuquerque.
Ward Whitehorn, of Albuquerque, said he was confused because he didn’t know what the voters were going to do in November – keep the current Congess or vote in new lawmakers.
“If we continue with this Congress – they want to privatize the whole thing. The money is there – there’s no reason to cut services, unless it’s just to cut it from under us,” Whitehorn said.
There will be another community conversation in Albuquerque, also at the Hotel Albuquerque, on June 6th. More details will be available here at www.aarp.org/nm closer to the event.
The next conversation is set for April 24 in Carlsbad at the Pecos River Village Convention Center, 711 Muscatel Ave, Rm. 3, from 9:30 to 11 a.m. To RSVP call 1-877-926-8300 or click on the Carlsbad event link at www.aarp.org/nm under the events calendar on the left-hand side of the page toward the bottom.