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Retirement Planning > Social Security

Social Security turns 80 to cheers

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You’d never know it to listen to the politicians, but Social Security is very popular with the rest of Americans—not just as a benefit, but as a program for the common good.

A new survey commissioned by AARP to commemorate Social Security’s 80th anniversary (on August 14) took the pulse of public opinion. It found that hearts beat strongly for the program.

How strongly? Take a look at these seven statistics from the AARP survey:

    1. 80 percent of adults rely on it, or plan to, during retirement.
    2. A third of adults said that it’s the source of income on which they most rely, or plan to most rely, during retirement.
    3. 66 percent say that it’s one of the most important government programs—something that’s remained fairly consistent over time, said AARP, citing survey results in 1995, 2005, 2010, and 2015.82 percent believe it’s important to kick in to the Social Security kitty for the common good.
    4. 57 percent completely agree that it provides financial security for all Americans.
    5. 53 percent say it makes it possible for older Americans to remain independent.
    6. 57 percent say that those who count on it most would really suffer without it.
    7. And don’t believe all the hype about young people dissing Social Security.

While they might have less confidence in its future, that doesn’t mean that they don’t think it’s valuable:

    1. 90 percent of adults under 30 believe it’s an important government program.
    2. 85 percent of the same group wants it to be there for them when they need it.

Americans, of course, are known for their independence. That doesn’t change as people age:

    • 83 percent say that it’s extremely important for them to be able to live independently in their own homes for as long as they want.
    • 80 percent want to be self-sufficient, so that, much as they believe it’s extremely important to have family around them (68 percent), they don’t want family members to be on the hook for their financial needs.

Still, people are worried about having enough to get by on during retirement, even with Social Security’s help:

    • 69 percent are worried about being wiped out financially by a major health care expense
    • 68 percent are afraid they’ll just flat run out of money before they die

And considering the relentless drumbeat in Washington to cut benefits, it’s actually surprising that more people aren’t worried that Social Security won’t be enough to get by on (65 percent) or won’t be there for them when they finally do retire (64 percent).

There should be some comfort in knowing, as 73 percent do not know, that even if the worst happened and the Social Security Trust Fund were exhausted, the program would still be able to pay out reduced benefits. But raising the limit on the amount of wages taxed would solve that problem very quickly.


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