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: April 13, 2014
- 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.
- 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.
- In the News: Many blacks and Latinos have no retirement savings, study shows - Fewer than half of blacks and Latino workers have retirement plans on the job, leaving the vast majority of them with no savings designated for their golden years, according to a report. Americans of all races face the growing prospect of downward mobility in retirement, the report said, but the problem is particularly acute for blacks and Hispanics.
- In the News: To Fix Social Security, Some Democrats Want To Lift Wage Cap - Three decades ago, 90 percent of the nation's wage earnings were taxed for Social Security; that proportion has now shrunk to 83 percent. Raising the rates for Social Security withholding would be one way to shore up the program's finances and make it more progressive.
- In the News: Pension Theft: Class Wa - Pensions are not gifts bestowed by the government on workers; they are part of workers' pay. But in 21st century America, contracts and the rule of law apparently don't mean anything, at least not if the people at the other end are ordinary workers.
- In the News: Millennials may not be able to afford retirement essentials - While many Americans are falling short on savings, millennials are most at risk of being unable to afford essential retirement expenses -- such as food, shelter and medical care, according to a Fidelity Investments survey.
- In the News: The Retirement Deficit - The big push for cutting Social Security is coming from America's "corporate statesmen." Many of America's CEOs don't think we're "entitled" to a secure retirement.
- In the News: Bernie Sanders - Don't Cut Social Security and Medicare-: "At a time when almost all new income created is going to the top 1% and when the gap between the very rich and everybody else is growing wider, we must not balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable people in our country: working families, the elderly, children, the sick and the poor. We must not cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid."
- In the News: Social Security Does Not Increase the Deficit - While the American people have stood their ground against Social Security cuts, Washington has still not gotten the message. Lynne Paramore debunks the so called "facts" about Social Security’s affect on our national debt.
- In the News:"I Never Thought I'd Be Working In My 70s": Three Distressing Retirement Stories - It’s official: America has entered a retirement crisis—according to Forbes, “the greatest retirement crisis in the history of the world.”
- In the News: Entitlements" and Our Dollar Democracy - How did it happen that billionaire farmers are not only entitled to their "entitlements" but are entitled to keep them secret, while those who have paid into Social Security have become greedy freeloaders whose entitlements must be cut?
- In the News: Fact Check: Social Security Does Not Increase the Deficit - The American people love Social Security, and with good reason. It protects seniors and the disabled from poverty, and it is the most important life and disability safeguard available to the nation's 75 million children. The program is a bargain: Its administrative costs are lower than privately managed retirement plans. Social Security returns in benefits more than 99 cents of every dollar collected, whereas a typical 401(k) could easily eat up 20 cents of that dollar in fees. The program is fiscally sound and prudently managed — a policy triumph.
- In the News: A State-by-State Snapshot of Poverty Among Seniors - The share of seniors living in poverty is higher in every state under the supplemental measure than under the official measure,2 and at least twice as high in 12 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
- In the News: Unless Social Security Is Expanded with Increased Funding, We Face a Unprecedented Crisis of Million of Baby Boomers In Poverty - Trillions needed to maintain lifestyle could come from closing one tax loophole.
- In the News: Obama Wants to Cut Social Security - Obama is proposing, along with the support of Republicans and many Democrats, to change how annual increases in Social Security benefits are calculated. He wants to switch to a different formula, called Chained CPI.
- In the News: Economists: Population Growth Not Necessary for Healthy Economy - Solution to aging population is boosting productivity, increasing workforce participation, according to new report.
- In the News: Forty Percent Of Workers Made Less Than $20,000 Last Year - Nearly 40 percent of all workers in the country made less than $20,000 last year, according to data from the Social Security Administration, which doesn’t include figures on benefits such as health insurance or pensions. That’s below the federal poverty threshold for a family of four and close to the line for a family of three. On average, these workers earned just $17,459.55.
- In the News: Something people forget abut Social Security: It’s America’s biggest anti-poverty program, by far
- In the News: Agencies can't always tell who's dead and who's not, so benefit checks keep coming - The U.S. government has a problem with dead people. For one thing, it pays them way too much money. In the past few years, Social Security paid $133 million to beneficiaries who were deceased. The federal employee retirement system paid more than $400 million to retirees who had passed away. And an aid program spent $3.9 million in federal money to pay heating and air-conditioning bills for more than 11,000 of the dead.
- In the News: Gender Pay Gap Likely Won't Go Away Until After You Retire: Study - Most women that are employed today will probably retire before they see pay equality in the workplace. That's because the gender wage gap -- or the difference between average full-time pay for women and men -- isn't expected to close until 2058, according to a projection from the Institute for Women's Policy Research, a think tank focused on women's policy issues.
- In the News: Most Americans adding debt faster than savings - For many Americans, the financial impact of this lack of savings has been compounded by heavier borrowing. From 1992 to 2010, people now nearing retirement, meaning those age 50 to 65, increased their total debt by 69 percent. For a fifth percent of these households, the debt was from mortgages, which have the potential to increase in value. But the remaining 80 percent of the debt was from credit cards, accumulated installment debt like auto loans and other revolving debt such as home equity loans, according to HelloWallet.
- In the News: 5 Reasons Why Cutting Social Security Would Be Irrational - Even for Congress.
- In the News: All the Older Single Ladies in Poverty - Extreme poverty among women over age 65 who lived alone jumped between 2011 and 2012, according to a new report from the National Women's Law Center, "Insecure & Unequal," analyzing recently released Census data.
- In the News: Older workers report resounding satisfaction; benefits of work rise with age - A study by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 9 in 10 workers who are age 50 or older say they are very or somewhat satisfied with their job. Older workers reported satisfaction regardless of gender, race, educational level, political ideology and income level.
- In the News: CBO: Raising the Medicare Eligibility Age Won't Save Much - The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a new report Thursday revising the projected cost savings of raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 years old. The new report asserts that increasing the eligibility age would only save $19 billion in the first decade, as opposed to the original estimate of $113 billion, thus placing holes in the oft-repeated argument that Medicare eligibility should be restricted to lower the program's costs and reduce the budget deficit.
- In the News: Most Americans accumulating debt faster than they’re saving for retirement - A majority of Americans with 401(k)-type savings accounts are accumulating debt faster than they are setting aside money for retirement, further undermining the nation’s troubled system for old-age saving, a new report has found.
- Social Security Benefits Increase Expected to be Small - For the second year in a row, the cost-of-living adjustment given to the millions of Social Security beneficiaries, disabled veterans, and federal retirees is expected to be small. The increase in benefits will likely be around 1.5 percent, which is one of the lowest increases since 1975, when automatic increases were first adopted.
- In the News: Getting Older, Growing Poorer - The basic outlines of poverty in America are sadly familiar. At last count, 46.5 million people were poor — 15 percent of the population. Women and children, especially in single-mother families, were, as always, hit hardest.
- In the News: Carry on working - Nearly one in eight workers think they will never be able to afford to retire fully, according to HSBC’s latest report, The Future of Retirement: Life after work? Among those already retired, many have less money than they expected, and some feel they were too hasty in giving up work.
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