The way that people view Social Security is strongly influenced by their age and financial position. If you are young and healthy, you may view Social Security as something that “you’ll never see” or “just a handout for older people who didn’t save.”
If you are rich and approaching retirement, Social Security may be nothing more than a second thought… a bit of play money to spend on extras.
If, however, you are like the majority of Americans, Social Security may be the only thread of hope that you are holding on to with regards to your ability to survive in retirement.
Contrary to what certain segments of the Millennial generation may think, Social Security is not a handout. It is just a small part of the money that you were forced to save at very low interest. Now, you may be breathing a sigh of relief that you have a safety net at all!
Unfortunately, there are several reasons to believe that Social Security may not be enough to support even a modest retirement. Let’s talk about the future of Social Security for a second. Then, I’ll give some suggestions for how to fight back.
In Washington, people have talked for decades about “fixing Social Security.” For better or for worse, this will NEVER HAPPEN.
The reason for this is simple. Older adults are one of the most powerful voting blocks in the United States… and they get more powerful every year. Reducing Social Security benefits would be like committing political suicide.
I’m not judging here. I don’t want my Social Security benefits cut either. As I said before, like most older adults, I feel like I earned them… and more! But, there is also no avoiding the fact that Social Security is on shaky legs.
Some estimates suggest that, barring a significant strategy shift, Social Security benefits might need to be cut by 25% by 2034. Personally, with the way that the U.S. National Debt is growing, I think that this is optimistic.
So, no, Social Security won’t be fixed. That train has left the station. Instead, it will be passed around like a political hot potato until, a few decades from now, a major disaster strikes. When this happens, we could be facing a much bigger drop in benefits than just 25%.
People say that “life is short.” For many older adults who are struggling to pay their medical bills in retirement, it sure won’t feel this way!
According to a recent report by HealthView Services, a 66-year-old couple can expect to pay 59% of their Social Security benefit to cover medical costs! 59%!
Keep in mind that we’re not talking about any fancy anti-aging treatments here. We’re talking about the basic medical costs that most of us will need to keep us alive and in relative comfort in the final decades of our lives.
I’m not trying to upset anyone here. I just want you to understand how dangerous relying on Social Security really is.
The good news is that, even if you are in your 50s or 60s, there are things that you can do to reduce your reliance on Social Security. Let’s talk about a few of them now.
“Saving for retirement” usually refers to putting more money into one’s 401K, IRA or bank account. I would argue that, even though this kind of saving is important, saving skills is equally critical.
What do I mean by “saving skills?” I mean that every single one of us, whether we are 45 or 65 should be thinking about how we can make a little extra cash in retirement.
I’m not necessarily talking about starting a business… although you could certainly do this if you are so inclined. I’m talking about starting a small side hustle that allows you to make an extra $500, $1,000 or $2,000 a month. Here are a few examples: Freelance writing, consulting, blogging, gardening, babysitting, being a tour guide, writing books, designing websites, renting a spare room, photography, pet sitting, renting a parking space, teaching, translating, graphic design and many more! If you are interested, I have compiled a list of 60 ways to make money in retirement.
One of the best things that I ever did was to take an “early retirement.” No, I don’t mean that I literally retired early – although I did quit my corporate job to start my own company. I mean that I started living on my retirement income early.
A friend suggested that I try living on my retirement income for 3 months. This, he said, would give me a much better feeling for what my future had in hold than simply looking at my financial statements once a year!
This period of “early retirement” was useful for two reasons. First, it helped me to get my butt in gear. There was no way that I wanted to live on the amount that I had invested. Second, it helped me to identify opportunities for cutting costs.
If you still have a few years before retirement, don’t take your foot off the gas pedal. Now is the time to get aggressive with your costs. Not only will this help you to save more every month, but, it will also help to soften the emotional blow when you finally do transition to retirement.
By now, you probably already know that you can get a higher monthly Social Security payment. In fact, according to this Time article, “It often makes sense to wait as long as you can to take Social Security. Payments increase 8% a year each year you delay until age 70.”
That said, there are other reasons to delay retirement as long as possible… either by starting your own business or continuing your corporate career.
First, the longer you work, the less time you will need to support yourself on your retirement income. This seems simple, but, even 5 years of having your costs covered can make a big difference.
Second, staying in your job can give you more time to start your side-business while you are still “in the game” and your professional contacts still remember you.
While this is certainly not fair, there is no denying that people start looking at you differently once you retire. Trust me when I say that it will be much easier to build your consulting business, get started as a writer or launch a blog, when people see you as a mature professional rather than a retiree.
I mentioned before that a 66-year-old couple might expect to use as much as 59% of their Social Security benefits to cover their health care costs.
I’m still amazed that more people aren’t talking about the fact that a significant portion of our health care costs are directly under our control. Yes, we have to pay premiums. The healthier we are, the less we will need to pay out in deductible payments. In addition, not all medications and medical devices are covered by Medicare. So, the healthier you are, the less you will pay.
By the way, I’m not even going to get into the question of whether Medicare will survive in the coming decades. It might, but, I’m not betting on it! The best thing you can do to protect yourself from unwelcome changes to Medicare is to take your health seriously. Exercise. Use sunscreen. Eat better. Walk. Dance. Whatever you do, get moving!
The slow death of Social Security is dangerous. If it was going to run out of money tomorrow, there would be riots in the streets. As it is, we can just imagine (hope!) that it will be around forever.
Maybe it will be. Maybe it won’t. But, none of us should count on Social Security being our primary source of income in retirement.
Is it hard to develop a $500, $1,000 or even $10,000 side income in retirement? Yes. Is it easy? No. But, as baby boomers, we have faced difficult paths before and won. Now is our time to show the world that we are not victims. We will survive and we will thrive no matter what the future holds!
Are you worried about what may happen to Social Security in the coming decades? Why or why not? How are you planning on supplementing your income in retirement? Please join the conversation!
Tags Retirement Planning