Financial advisors are less worried about cuts in Social Security benefits for their older clients than they believe their clients are, according to a survey from The American College of Financial Services.

The College, which provides educational courses for financial professionals, surveyed 245 advisors with the Retirement Income Certified Professional designation, which it created, and found that 67% of advisors with older clients believed those clients were “moderately worried” about drastic benefit cuts in the Social Security program.

In contrast, only 46% of the advisors surveyed felt the same, leaving more than half (54%) not worried about drastic cuts. If they’re wrong, however, their clients will suffer. 

Eighty-four percent of advisors surveyed, however, said a 20% cut in Social Security benefits today would drastically alter their clients’ lifestyles. 

That is not an impossibility. The latest annual report of the Social Security Board of Trustees, released in April, estimates that the Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund will be depleted by 2034, which will cut benefits by 23% at that time if nothing is done to shore up the fund.

(Related: Everyone Wants to Save Social Security, but How?)

“These concerns indicate that advisors need to monitor the political landscape to ascertain whether Social Security benefits may be reduced in the future, and they need to work with their clients now to have plans in case cuts indeed occur,“ said Steve Parrish, co-director of The American College New York Life Center for Retirement Income, in a statement.

As pressure on the Social Security system increases, it may eventually be prudent to begin ‘what if’ planning for one’s anticipated retirement income,” said Colin Slabach, assistant professor of retirement at The American College of Financial Services. He’s more concerned about cuts in Social Security affecting younger generations rather than older retirees. 

“The current scenario is unsustainable but is nowhere near bankruptcy. This means that the older generation could continue to see benefits paid out throughout their lifetime at the cost of future generations.”

In the meantime, however, Slabach recommends that advisors educate themselves on any policy changes that will affect their clients” to help manage client expectations and any changes in Social Security benefits. The key is having a flexible, adaptable written financial plan that can adjust to changes as they arise, he said.

— Check out Help Clients Understand Potential Social Security Benefit Cuts on ThinkAdvisor.