Social Security & Retirement Issues
“We can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family...”
— President Franklin D. Roosevelt upon signing the SS Act in 1935.
The Social Security program ... represents our commitment as a society to the belief that workers should not live in dread that a disability, death, or old age could leave them or their families destitute.
- President Jimmy Carter, December 20, 1977
[This law] assures the elderly that America will always keep the promises made in troubled times a half century ago ... [The Social Security Amendments of 1983 are] a monument to the spirit of compassion and commitment that unites us as a people.
- President Ronald Reagan, April 20, 1983.
For more information: AAUW Fact Sheets and Position Papers on Affirmative Action, Athletics, Education, Managed Care Reform, Reproductive Rights, and Social Security Reform.
Updated: Aug. 25, 2014
- Retirement mistakes people make at every age - Whether you're 25 or 65, there's always something getting in the way of your long-term plan. People stumble with their retirement savings at all stages of life as competing interests - student loans, the cost of having children, health emergencies and home obligations - manage to get in the way. But the cost of putting off saving can be dire: Roughly 40 percent of baby boomers and Generation Xers risk running out of money in retirement, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
- Social Security marks 79th birthday with declining service - Social Security has been around long enough to collect old age benefits. It marked "79 years of public service" Thursday. A new audit from the agency's inspector general's office documents deteriorating service resulting from cuts in staffing and office hours to a government program that all Americans eventually will use, assuming we live long enough.
- Student Debt Threatens the Safety Net for Elderly Americans - There is a growing number of Americans aged 50 and older who haven't finished paying their student loans. Student debt is growing faster for seniors than for any other age group, according to the latest data gathered by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Lingering student loan debt is part of a broader and, many elder-care lawyers say, devastating accumulation of debt among older Americans.
- Malnutrition Threatens Many U.S. Seniors Seen at ERs - More than half of American seniors seen at emergency departments are either malnourished or at risk for malnutrition, a new study reveals. Among ER patients aged 65 and older, 16 percent were malnourished and 60 percent were either malnourished or at risk for malnutrition. Those most likely to be malnourished included seniors who: had depression (52 percent); lived in assisted-living facilities (50 percent); had difficulty eating or swallowing due to problems such as denture troubles or pain (38 percent); had difficulty buying groceries (33 percent).
- For Aging Inmates, Care Outside Prison Walls - Of the 2.3 million adults in state and federal prisons, about 246,000 are 50 or older, according to the National Institute of Corrections. The U.S. currently spends more than $16 billion annually caring for these aging inmates, and their numbers are projected to grow dramatically in the next 15 years.
- Almost 20 percent of people near retirement age have no retirement savings - A survey released Thursday offered a stark reminder that many Americans are woefully under prepared for retirement.
- Not so golden: Wealth gap lasting into retirement - With traditional pensions becoming rarer in the private sector, and lower-paid workers less likely to have access to an employer-provided retirement plan, there is a growing gulf in the retirement savings of the wealthy and people with lower incomes. That, experts say, could exacerbate an already widening wealth gap across America, as more than 70 million Baby Boomers head into retirement - many of them with skimpy reserves.
- Another jarring pay-gap reality: Women get 34 percent less from Social Security than men - Retirement-related numbers from the U.S. Social Security Administration:
- 6.6: The percentage of men ages 65 and older who live in poverty.
- 11: The percentage of women ages 65 and older who live in poverty.
- 12,250: The average dollar amount that women ages 65 and older get from Social Security annually.
- 16,396: The average dollar amount that men ages 65 and older get from Social Security annually.
- Equal Pay for Women Would Mean a More Secure Retirement for All - The link is simple and clear: Women earn less than men in the workplace - almost $450 billion less in total each year nationwide - resulting in lower Social Security payments after retirement. The pay discrimination against women hurts their current well-being and future security
- Delaying Social Security draw could increase lifetime income for St. Lawrence County’s 14,720 residents age 55 to 64 - Payments increase by 5 to 7 percent for each year of delay between ages 62 and 66, and by 8 percent for each year of delay between ages 66 and 70. The increases stop at age 70.
- Study: Grandparents Save for College for Grandchildren - More than half (53 percent) of grandparents are saving for their grandchildren's college costs, or plan to start saving, according to research released Thursday by Fidelity. And 90 percent reported that, if asked, they would be likely to make a financial contribution to their grandchildren's college costs. A majority of grandparents are also talking to both their children and grandchildren about college savings. The national survey was conducted of adults who are at least 45 years old and who have at least one grandchild younger than 18.
- The Elderly as a Source of Profit - An issue that many have had the misfortune to encounter, but has yet to be recognized as a broader societal issue, is how the medical-industrial complex takes advantage of the elderly.
- Graying of Adirondacks presents future challenges - The Adirondacks are heading toward a future of fewer full-time residents, with a mix tilting each year toward more older people and retirees, and fewer school-aged kids and young families, according to a report issued by the Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project. The 12-county Adirondack Park peaked with about 132,000 residents at the beginning of this century, slipped to about 130,000 people by 2010, and by the end of this year will have about 128,000 residents. By 2030, if trends continue, the population will have slipped to about 115,000, back to what it was in the early 1970s, said Brad Dake, one of the report's authors. By 2030, more than a third of the Park residents will be 60 or older.
- Rethinking the Traditional Retirement Community - Instead of focusing on traditional Sun Belt retirement communities, builders are seeking to lure older people who want to remain active or continue to work. Pleasing retirement-age customers is crucial for developers. At a time when many housing markets remain stagnant, projects catering to older people rank as one of the hottest fields. In 2013, there were 21,000 starts of age-restricted homes, up from 13,000 in 2012, according to the National Association of Home Builders. "Today people do not want a geezer ghetto," said Margaret Wylde, president of ProMatura Group, a market research firm in Oxford, Miss., that specializes in older consumers. "Buyers want an active environment with walking trails and easy access to amenities outside the community."
- Social Security Threatens to Close All Field Offices - Bureaucrats are mulling closure of most of the Social Security Administration's more than 1,000 community field offices in the United States, where 43 million people sought services last year, even as the number of visitors continues to grow.
- Women are still way behind men when it comes to retirement savings - Women are just as likely to put away some money for retirement as men - but they are still way behind their male counterparts in total retirement savings, a new study shows. Men had an average of $139,467 in their individual retirement accounts as of 2012, compared with the average of $81,700 that women had stashed in their IRAs, according to a report released Wednesday by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a Washington-based research institute that focuses on health, savings and retirement issues. But the most likely factor keeping women from saving as robustly as men is probably not that surprising: Women still make less, on average, when compared with men. Women earned roughly 77 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2012, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau. That was unchanged from the year before and not much higher than the 61 cents women made for every dollar earned by men in 1960.
- Why many retired women live in poverty - Gender inequality doesn't end at the workplace. For many women, the gender gap haunts them well into their retirement years, when far more women find themselves living in poverty. In fact, women are almost twice as likely as men to live below the poverty line during retirement, with single and minority women struggling the most. On average, women still receive Social Security benefits that are thousands of dollars less annually than benefits that men receive, according to the Social Security Administration.
- Graying of America Is Speeding, Report Says - The number of Americans 65 and older is expected to nearly double by the middle of the century when they will make up more than a fifth of the nation's population, according to a Census Bureau report released Tuesday. By 2050, 83.7 million Americans will be 65 or older, compared with 43.1 million in 2012, the report said. Fewer than 10 percent were older than 65 in 1970.
- Boomers working to stay employed during golden years - More baby boomers are working harder to keep their skills up to date, searching for future job opportunities and focusing on their health to make sure than can remain working after they turn 65. According to a report by the USA Today, 65 percent of baby boomers plan to work passed 65 or not retire at all due to concerns about health care and their income. The report, which cites findings from a Harris Poll says that baby boomers are taking steps to make sure they can work longer. Forty-one percent of those polled said they are keeping their skills current and 16 percent said they are networking to meet people and line up future opportunities.
- In the News: Eldercare: The Forgotten Feminist Issue - As writer Jane Glenn Haas pointed out, eldercare isn't sexy enough to be a feminist issue. It lacks the naughty allure of reproductive rights, the seductive appeal of body image. It doesn't even have a sassy Lean In-like catchphrase. But it should be a feminist issue, since the numbers show that women are most likely to shoulder the responsibility of looking after parents in their twilight years, and the most likely to live well into those twilight years. A lot of them have missed out on career and educational opportunities. A lot of them-like my mother and her friends-are doing this by the skin of their teeth, with scant to nonexistent resources. A lot of them will outlive their spouses (if they have them), exhaust their pensions (if they have them), and die alone.
- In the News: Social Security, Treasury target taxpayers for their parents' decades-old debts - Across the nation, hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who are expecting refunds this month are instead getting letters like the one Grice got, informing them that because of a debt they never knew about - often a debt incurred by their parents - the government has confiscated their check. The aggressive effort to collect old debts started three years ago - the result of a single sentence tucked into the farm bill lifting the 10-year statute of limitations on old debts to Uncle Sam.IMG ALIGN=middle SRC="smlnew.gif">
- In the News: Going Back to School, Without the Pressure - Residences near or on college campuses offer courses and culture for older adults. Many retirees are opting for college retirement communities, where they can take lifelong learning courses, mentor college students and even get a degree. Though exact estimates vary, there are now about 60 college retirement communities in the United States, like those near Stanford, Notre Dame and Penn State.
- In the News: Video: Why Should Millennials Care About Social Security?
- In the News: Coping When Not Entering Retirement Together - Couples nearing retirement must discuss what will happen when routines are different and less money flows in.
- In the News: One-third of Americans only have $1,000 saved for retirement - More Americans are confident about their retirement prospects for the first time in seven years, but even so, more than one-third of workers (36%) have a measly $1,000 saved for their later years, according to a new study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
- In the News: 12 Facts You Need to Know About Our Retirement Crisis as the Battle Over Social Security Is Far From Over - Obama's reversal on Social Security cutbacks isn't the major victory it appears to be. Here's why.
- In the News: More on Social Security Math - Raising the Social Security wage cap would be a reform of Social Security that improves the financial condition of the system through a progressive increase in taxes. The change could be made with or without accrual of additional benefits corresponding to the tax paid on wages above the existing cap.
- In the News: The Gray Jobs Enigma - While nearly three-fourths of Americans say they will continue working after retiring from their main job, only 18.9 percent of Americans age 65 or older actually remain in the work force. Many workers in their 40s, 50s and early 60s are convinced that they will want to or need to work well past 65 and even after retiring from their principal job, yet many retire earlier than they anticipated.
- In the News: 7 Numbers that Show How Most Americans Were Robbed of a Comfortable Retirement - Millions of baby boomers are the victims of 35 years of deregulated greed.
- In the News: The Scariest Part About Aging - It's not just health issues you have to worry about.
- In the News: U.S. ranks 19th in the world in retirement security - High health care costs, poor income equality and moderate life expectancy are among the driving factors behind the United States' ranking as 19th in the world for retirement security.
- In the News: Obama Drops Chained CPI from Budget Proposal - White House officials said Thursday that President Obama will drop from his 2015 budget a proposal that would calculate cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security and other entitlement programs more conservatively than has been done in years past. The calculation, known as chained CPI, tends to result in smaller cost-of-living increases because it assumes that as inflation increases, consumers will begin to prefer less-expensive substitutes. Obama’s initial proposal of chained CPI came out of negotiations with Republican members of Congress as a cost-cutting measure to coincide with tax increases to help reduce the national deficit. Absent what he called any serious efforts to make progress on tax reform by Republicans, the president is now dropping this proposal, though he has indicted that it remains on the table for future negotiations.
- In the News: New Obama budget proposal abandons Social Security cuts - The decision to drop the cost-of-living proposal was essentially an acknowledgement that Obama has been unable to conclude a “grand budget bargain” with Republican leaders, even by including in his previous budget plan a benefit reduction opposed by many Democrats.
- In the News: The Childless Plan for Their Fading Days - According to an August 2013 report from AARP, 11.6 percent of women ages 80 to 84 were childless in 2010. By 2030, the number will reach 16 percent. What’s more, in 2010, the caregiver support ratio was more than seven potential caregivers for every person over 80 years old. By 2030, that ratio is projected to decline to four to one. By 2050, it’s expected to fall to three to one.
- In the News: World bracing for retirement crisis: Part 2 - Many have raided their retirement accounts to pay bills. In the United States, 26 percent of workers with 401(k) and other defined-contribution plans take loans or make hardship withdrawals before they reach retirement, according to a study by HelloWallet, which offers online services that help people with their finances. Working Americans withdraw $70 billion annually from retirement accounts.
- In the News: AOL chief ignites firestorm over 401(k) cuts and ‘distressed babies’ remark - The changes undercut a central virtue of the 401(k) system, which in theory should make it easier for employees to switch companies and take their savings with them. Instead, with people changing jobs more frequently during the course of their careers, the loss in matches can add up to thousands of dollars each time a worker switches employers.
- In the News: A 'sandwich generation' twist: retirees helping adult kids - The Pew Research Center has found that “among the 60-plus set without jobs anymore, 43 percent are still helping grown kids out with the bills.”
- In the News: Thievery: How Congress Keeps Stealing From Our Retirement Benefits and Social Safety Net - Military pensions, unemployment, disability and Social Security are all targets.
- In the News: Why Expanding Social Security Is Crucial to Addressing Inequality in America in 2014 - The political pendulum is swinging away from social security cutters.
- In the News: Editorial: The Retirement Crisis Is Upon Us - Two-thirds of working Americans will not be able to maintain their standard of living when they retire. Many will go into poverty.
- In the News: Retirement Theft in 4 Despicable Steps - American workers are being cheated out of the retirement they've paid for all their lives.
- In the News: Work Until You’re Dead? - Millions of older Americans say they will never be able to retire. They simply don’t have the savings.
- In the News: Social Security: The Social Contract's Comeback Year? - Social Security is a vital program, but the implications of this shifting debate run even deeper, to the future of the social contract itself.
- In the News: The World Braces for Retirement Crisis - Spawned years before the Great Recession and the 2008 financial meltdown, the crisis was significantly worsened by those twin traumas. It will play out for decades, and its consequences will be far-reaching. Many people will be forced to work well past the traditional retirement age of 65. Living standards will fall and poverty rates will rise for the elderly in wealthy countries that built safety nets for seniors after World War II. In developing countries, people's rising expectations will be frustrated if governments can't afford retirement systems to replace the tradition of children caring for aging parents.
- In the News: Your Terrifying Retirement Future: Why Millions Risk Sliding Into Poverty As They Age - Low wages, low or no savings, and low Social Security benefits. The future is not bright, especially for women and minorities.
- In the News: Women Are Swelling the Ranks of People Living in Extreme Poverty in America - Poor women are often ignored or regarded with contempt in the U.S.
- In the News: 50 Is the New 65: Older Americans Are Getting Booted from Their Jobs - and Denied New Opportunities - This is not just a story of people in their 60s or 70s. Workers as young as 50 are shocked to find themselves suddenly tossed onto the employment rubbish heap, just when they felt on top of their game. They’re feeling stressed, angry and betrayed by a society which has benefited greatly from their contributions.
- In the News: Elizabeth Warren: Social Security Is Under Attack - Among working families on the verge of retirement, about a third have no retirement savings of any kind, and another third have total savings that are less than their annual income. Many seniors have seen their housing wealth shrink, as well. According to AARP, in 2012, one out of every seven older homeowners was paying down a mortgage that was higher than the value of their house.
- In the News: The End of the Assault on Social Security and Medicare - When Sen. Elizabeth Warren came out for increasing Social Security last month, it set in motion a remarkable turn of events. For over a decade the only discussion of Social Security by the Washington power types was over how much to cut it and when.
- In the News: America’s Retirement Crisis Grows as Cities Raid Pension and Health Plans - Across America, states, counties and cities are taking steps that will make retirement for ex-public employees much harsher. Courts, politicans and corporations are all working together to chip away at deferred wages: reducing pensions or eliminating promised healthcare, or both. Said simply, they’re looting retirements and pushing people toward poverty.
Branch Homepage - Public Policy Issues to Watch