by Mahalia Boyd,
UniteNews Contributing Writer
Social Security has a long and evolving history. The program began with the Social Security Act of 1935. The Act was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a response to the economic challenges of the Great Depression. It was an attempt to limit unforeseen or unprepared dangers of advancing age, unemployment following the stock market crash, poverty, disability, and burdened widow(er) with or without children.
While its intentions were primarily positive, critics argued bias in its implementation and disproportionately excluded certain groups, like the agricultural sector, domestic workers, and ethnic groups.
In 1935, the life expectancy in the United States was significantly lower than today. Life expectancy at birth in the 1930s was 58 years for men, 62 years for women, and the retirement age was 65. According to sources, our government based this value on life expectancy because people wouldn’t live beyond their mid-sixties. In other words, they didn’t expect the workforce’s average worker would live long enough to receive the “fruits of their labor.” Nowadays, advances in healthcare, improved living conditions, and access to public health measures have contributed to people living longer.
When the program began, employees and employers were required to contribute a percentage of the employee’s wages to the Social Security Trust Fund. Social Security receives monies through payroll taxes (FICA) to be a pay-as-you-go system, with current workers supporting retirees. The goal of establishing the fund is to collect, hold, and invest until needed to pay benefits to retirement-eligible individuals.
Social Security has undergone numerous changes and expansions. In 1939, amendments were made to the Social Security Act to provide benefits to dependents and survivors of workers who died prematurely.
The program adjusted for longer life expectancy and changing demographics of the U.S. population. Before 1937, the full retirement age was 65, from 1960 and later, the retirement age has gradually increased to 67. These changes ensured the program’s long-term solvency as more people lived longer in retirement.
However, debates persist about the program’s financial sustainability of providing monies for retirees; dependents, and survivors of workers who die prematurely, are disabled; and have longer life expectancy.
The main factor contributing to the projected shortage is the demographic shift as the population ages. As baby boomers retire, life expectancy increases, and fewer workers pay into the system versus beneficiaries receiving benefits. This imbalance puts a strain on the Social Security Trust Funds.
According to a recent article in the Trustees Report, it projects the Trust Fund reserves will be depleted in 2034. If Congress takes no action to ensure the solvency of Trust Funds, the Social Security program will have enough FICA taxes to pay about 80% of the scheduled benefits.
Social Security should not be a person’s sole source of income in retirement. It was designed to provide some economic relief and comfort along with savings, investments, and employer-sponsored benefits (pensions), if available. Resolve in the New Year to save and invest for the future.
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Mahalia Boyd, Representative
Primerica Life Company &