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.
North Country Matters: Andrea Montgomery, Director of the St. Lawrence Office of the Aging (Oct. 31, 2014)
Updated: Sept. 1, 2015
- Food insecurity among older adults - Food insecurity among older adults (i.e., those 40 years or older) in 2012 remained well above pre-recession levels, based on a report by AARP Foundation. Those 40 and 49 years of age had the highest rates of food insecurity, compared to those aged 50 to 59, 60 to 69, and 70 or older, which the authors believe is driven, in part, by low awareness of available assistance.
- Parent Education Loans Can Ruin Your Retirement - Parent education loans can help your child attend the college of her dreams-and sink any dreams you had of ever retiring. The grim reality is that the federal PLUS loan program allows parents to borrow far more than they can comfortably, or even ever, repay.
- Undocumented Workers Pay $13 Billion a Year in Social Security, Get $1 Billion Back - Unauthorized workers are paying an estimated $13 billion a year in social security taxes and only getting around $1 billion back, according to a senior government statistician. Stephen Goss, the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration (SSA), told VICE News that an estimated 7 million people are currently working in the US illegally. Of those, he estimates that about 3.1 million are using fake or expired social security.
- A retirement storm is coming. Are you prepared? - The Government Accountability Office found that among households headed by someone 55 or older, about 29 percent have neither pension nor retirement savings. Among those who do have savings, the median amount for households headed by someone 55 to 64 is about $104,000, and $148,000 for households headed by someone 65 to 74. That's "equivalent to an inflation-protected annuity of $310 and $649 per month, respectively," the GAO said.
- How to Get Food to More People Who Need It - USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that 20 government and nonprofit organizations - including senior centers and Meals on Wheels - will allow utilization of SNAP benefits for seniors to pay for grocery delivery. This could help nearly one million seniors, who would otherwise not use SNAP benefits, access food. USDA will soon publish a request for applications to select the eligible entities. SNAP use by seniors could lead to decreased hospitalizations, fewer emergency room calls, fewer medical expenses, and allow people to stay in their homes longer, said Vilsack.
- No cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security in 2016? - Lost in the news surrounding the release of the 2015 Social Security Trustees report is the likelihood that Social Security beneficiaries won't see a cost-of-living adjustment increase, or COLA, in 2016. According to the Trustees, Social Security beneficiaries can expect to receive a COLA increase of 0.0 percent. That's right ... a goose egg.
- Social Security Has Enough Money to Expand Benefits Now, Trustee's Report Shows - Billions are available now and in the near-future. The most important takeaways are that Social Security has a large and growing surplus, and its future cost is fully affordable. Over the next 5 years, Social Security has sufficient funds to pay every penny of benefits and every penny of associated administrative costs. That is true for the next 10 years. And also the next 15 years.
- Death Rate And Hospitalization Down For Seniors - A new study has found that death rate, hospital stays and medical costs have all went down for senior adults between the years of 1999 and 2013. It's a refreshing piece of news as the US health care system typically finds its way into the media when something goes wrong.
- Afraid your retirement nest egg won't last long? You're not alone. - In a recent survey by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, 44 percent of workers of all ages cited having insufficient finances as their biggest fear. And a quarter of middle-class Americans said they "get depressed" thinking about their finances during retirement, according to a Wells Fargo Middle Class Retirement survey. Forty-eight percent of those who have not retired were not confident that they will have saved enough to live "the lifestyle they want" in retirement.
- Social Security Has Enough Money to Expand Benefits Now, Trustee's Report Shows - Billions are available now and in the near-future. The most important takeaways are that Social Security has a large and growing surplus, and its future cost is fully affordable. Over the next 5 years, Social Security has sufficient funds to pay every penny of benefits and every penny of associated administrative costs. That is true for the next 10 years. And also the next 15 years. Over the next 25 years, Social Security is projecting a modest shortfall of just .51 percent of GDP. Over the next 50 years, the projection is just 0.8 of GDP. And over the next 75 years, the shortfall is projected to be just 0.96 percent of GDP. Let's put those percentages in perspective. Military spending after the 9/11 terrorist attack increased 1.1 percent, of GDP. Spending on public education nationwide went up 2.8 percent of GDP between 1950 and 1975, when the baby boom generation showed up as school children.
- Social Security Disability Benefits Face Cuts in 2016 - Eleven million people face a deep, abrupt cut in disability insurance benefits in late 2016 if Congress fails to replenish Social Security's disability trust fund, which is running out of money, the Obama administration said. The trustees of Social Security, including three cabinet secretaries, said the disability trust fund would be depleted in the last quarter of 2016. After that, they said, benefits would automatically be cut by 19 percent because revenues, largely from payroll taxes, would be sufficient to cover only 81 percent of scheduled benefit payments.
- Families face tough decisions as cost of elder care soars - For the two-thirds of Americans over 65 who are expected to need some long-term care, the costs are increasingly beyond reach. The cost of staying in a nursing home has climbed at twice the rate of overall inflation over the last five years, according to the insurer Genworth Financial. One year in a private room now runs a median $91,000 a year, while one year of visits from home-health aides runs $45,760.
- Retired Women Are Twice As Poor As Retired Men: Report - According to a report Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the average total income of women over age 65 is just 55 percent of older men's income, and those women are nearly twice as likely as men to live in poverty. Women's median retirement income is about $16,000 a year, while men's is nearly $30,000. And while more women depend on Social Security benefits than men, men 65 and older receive an average of $18,000 a year in benefits, compared to only $14,000 for women.
- Administration Proposes Rules To Modernize Nursing Home Safety - After nearly 30 years, the Obama administration wants to modernize the rules nursing homes must follow to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid payments. The hundreds of pages of proposed changes cover everything from meal times to use of antipsychotic drugs to staffing. Some are required by the Affordable Care Act and other recent federal laws, as well as the president's executive order directing agencies to simplify regulations and minimize the costs of compliance.
- 21.5 Million Social Security Numbers Stolen From Government Computers - The Office of Personnel Management says that number includes 19.7 million individuals who applied for a background investigation and 1.8 million nonapplicants, who it says are primarily spouses and cohabitants of the applicants. OPM says the breach of 21.5 million records "is separate but related to a previous incident" in which it identified 4.2 million current and former federal employees who had their records stolen.
- Same-sex couples to get big Social Security bonus - Heterosexual married couples have long been able to use Social Security claiming strategies - such as file and suspend, and restricted claim - to maximize their household's benefits.
- How to get the most out of your Social Security benefits - financial columnist Alan Sloan explains the pros and cons of taking Social Security at age 62, at your full retirement age or after you hit 70.
- Food Insecurity Numbers Rising Among Older Coloradans - By 2030, the number of Colorado residents age 65 and older will more than double. According to Kathy Underhill of Hunger Free Colorado, one in seven of the state's seniors struggles with food insecurity or hunger, a 23 percent increase since 2000. "There's a study out of the University of Kentucky that shows that a food insecure or hungry 64-year-old has the active daily limitation of a 78-year-old," said Underhill. The problem is a long-term issue, she noted.
- More older Americans are being buried by housing debt - The baby boom generation was already facing a retirement crunch: Over the past two decades, employers have largely eliminated traditional pensions, forcing workers to manage their retirement savings. Many boomers didn't save enough, invested badly or raided their retirement accounts.
- Seniors Having to Choose Between Food and Medicine - Income, for most elderly Americans, comes largely from Social Security. Almost three-quarters of single Social Security recipients 65 or older depend on Social Security for all or most of their income, which averages only about $1,300 per month. Global AgeWatch reports that income security for U.S. seniors is among the worst in the developed world. It has been estimated that without Social Security benefits 45 percent of seniors would have incomes below the poverty line. The number of Americans who expect Social Security to be a primary source of retirement income has increased by 40 percent over the past 10 years (25% to 35%).
- Homeowners Get Ready to 'Age in Place' - A recent study from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University found that less than 25% of homeowners age 55-plus have a bedroom and full bathroom on the first floor of their homes, a way to get into the house without steps, and no steps between rooms-universal design features that make life easier for all ages.
Remodeling can be pricey. But given the high cost of care in an assisted-living facility or nursing home, such improvements can make sense, experts say.
- Number of seniors threatened by hunger has doubled since 2001, and it's going to get worse - The number of seniors uncertain about food more than doubled between 2001 and 2013, and in 2013 an additional 300,000 seniors over age 60 had trouble accessing food. In Naples, Florida, charities provide temporary help, but often have waiting lists, and don't address the underlying poverty causing food insecurity. Outreach workers from the Harry Chapin Food Bank target apartments and senior centers to help seniors apply for SNAP. Seniors can be the hardest to reach, said Al Brislain of the Food Bank, "because part of it's pride, part of it's that they don't have the knowledge of the social service system, and part of it is their isolation.
- New LGBT training on the way for elder service providers - A recent University of Miami study found three-fourths of elder service and other agencies surveyed reported having gay and lesbian clients. Yet less than a third had any specialized training in the needs concerning the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. The study, released last month, has prompted a new initiative: the Protect Our Elders campaign, aimed at addressing the issues that advocates say may keep LGBT seniors from seeking services like home health care, bereavement support and retirement housing.
- Aging doesn't always come naturally. Classes are teaching boomers how - Senior co-housing, and all its complications and rewards, was one of the bigger draws at what amounts to a college on how to age successfully. The four- to eight-week courses, presented by nonprofit organization Iona, were designed especially with baby boomers in mind. Since 2011, a generation that has almost continually reinvented itself also has been hitting retirement age.
- Lifelong Wage Gaps Shrink Women's Social Security Checks - Trends in female employment all add up to a "perfect storm" for women's retirement, says a labor economist. Those trends also raise women's stakes in any election-year discussion of adding or subtracting from Social Security. "Social Security is often women's only asset," said Sylvia Allegretto, a labor economist. A lifetime of wage disparities and caregiving leaves women with fewer assets, which must stretch further. "After they pay for food, housing and other necessities for themselves and their families, many women have nothing left to put away for retirement."
- AARP Calls For A State-Facilitated Retirement Fund - AARP is calling for New York lawmakers to establish a new, state-facilitated retirement fund to help people save money who don't have workplace access to one. According to AARP, its surveys showed 29 percent of Boomers ranging in age from 51 to 69 lack access to a workplace retirement savings plan. Some 20 percent of Gen Xers, ranging from 35 to 50 years old, are in the same boat. The surveys claim a margin of error of 5 percent.
- AARP warns of 'Gen-Xodus' - A majority of New Yorkers turning 50 this year worry about not saving enough for retirement because of lower confidence in Social Security, fewer guaranteed benefits from retirement plans and more widespread debt, according to a study released last week by AARP NY.
- A Lifeline, Not a Safety Net - More Americans are elderly-over 65-today than at any time in the nation's history. Two-thirds of income for couples between 75 and 85 comes from Social Security, and a sky-high 74.4% for single-person households. For 85-plus households, the figures are nearly as formidable: 61.5% and 67.1%, respectively. That makes Social Security not a safety net in old age, as it's sometimes termed, but quite literally, a lifeline.
- Retirees have more education debt than ever - Retirees are bringing unprecedented levels of student loan debt into their later years, according to a new report that shows Baby Boomers may be woefully unprepared for retirement. The result of helping their kids or grandkids pay for college, those ages 65-74 have nearly six times the amount of education debt now than they did two and a half decades ago, when they had almost none, according to an analysis of government data by LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute. The burden is leaving them vulnerable to financial hardship because they have less available for saving or covering unexpected expenses, LIMRA data show.
- 1 in 5 elderly Americans die broke - In a study of data from the University of Michigan's Healthy and Retirement Study, which included 1,189 Americans who answered a survey in 2010 and died before the 2012 survey, the Employee Benefits Research Institute reports that more than 20 percent of Americans at the end of their lives had no assets apart from their homes, while 12 percent had no assets at all. For recently deceased singles, Social Security provided at least two-thirds of their income. Companion studies show that major medical costs, which can wipe out savings, compromise the financial health of many retirees.
- Most twenty-somethings are actually saving for retirement - About 67% have already stashed away something for retirement, according to a survey from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. The youngest workers surveyed had a median of $16,000 in total retirement savings, compared to $45,000 for workers in their 30s.
- Are More Seniors Using Mobility Devices? - Statistics show that about one-quarter of adults aged 65 and older are now dependent on certain mobility devices, including canes walkers and wheelchairs. Furthermore, about one third of them reported needing the assistance of multiple devices based on 2011 estimates.
- District ranks fourth in hunger risk for seniors, report says - A new national report on food insecurity among older Americans conducted by two university researchers on behalf of the nonprofit National Foundation to End Senior Hunger and the National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities - says nearly 15.5 percent of elders, or 9.6 million people, in the United States face the threat of hunger. That number has increased dramatically in recent years: Between 2001 and 2013, those elders who faced some threat of food insecurity climbed 45 percent, the report says. The problem is most pervasive in the South and Southwest and among racial and ethnic minorities.
- Half of Americans will see their standard of living fall in retirement - About half of American households will not be able to maintain their current standard of living in retirement, according to analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Center for Retirement Research. This means standard of living tradeoffs that could extend to choosing between buying medicine or food. The boomer generation will also receive a lower replacement rate because of changes to Social Security than current retirees, and future retirees will need to stretch their retirement income longer than previous generations.
- What America will look like in 2050 - A big increase in the number of elderly Americans, surging to become nearly the most populous segment of society. One is that Americans have been living longer, meaning that the demarcation of 65 as "old" is more distant from the average life expectancy. Another is that today's so-called Millennials are 2050's 65-plussers. (The most common age in America last year was 22.)
- Older unemployed workers settle for less - A study by the Washington-based association found 48 percent of people between 45 and 70 years old who lost their job in the last five years and have found a new one are making less than they were. Most say they're getting paid less and working fewer hours. The study also says the longer older workers are unemployed, the more likely they will earn less, with 59 percent of the re-employed who suffered a long-term spell of unemployment earning less in their current job, compared to 41 percent who had been short-term unemployed.
- Why putting off retirement savings until you make more money is a big mistake - People who start early can get away with saving a tiny portion of their pay and still have a decent chance at having enough money in retirement (in other words, their money won't run out before they die). But those who put it off need to save dramatically more to catch up.
- In Vote to Expand Social Security, 42 Democratic Senators Vote Yes While Every Republican Votes No - Advocates for expanding Social Security have said that payments today are not enough for the roughly 20 million retirees who receive more than half of their monthly income from Social Security benefits. They have proposed lifting the income tax cap as the simplest and fairest way to expand near-term payments and to build up long-term reserves.
- Women Academics Lack Confidence in Financial Planning - About a third (32 percent) of women professors, administrators and other staff say they lack confidence when it comes to financial planning for retirement, compared to 19 percent of men working in higher education, says a new report from Fidelity Investments.
- The U.S. just barely cracks the top 20 countries when it comes to retirement security - Want more retirement security? It might be time to move to Switzerland. The United States ranked 19th in the world for retirement security, according to an annual ranking of 150 countries by Natixis Global Asset Management. It's held that spot for three years. This year, it is ahead of Slovenia and just behind France.
- How growing income inequality is hurting Social Security - Here's another reason to be concerned about income inequality: it poses a direct threat to the already shaky fiscal health of Social Security, according to a report by the Center for American Progress.
- 'Eleanor's Hope' Puts Retirement Gap into Races - The Washington-based National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare launched a national initiative Oct. 9 to create grassroots support for ending the gender gap in retirement benefits to decrease the nearly 11 percent poverty rate among senior women, which is 50 percent higher than that of male retirees.Called "Eleanor's Hope"--in honor of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt who championed passage of the Social Security Act in 1935--the initiative proposes sweeping changes to modernize the system to reflect women's contributions as breadwinners as well as family caregivers.
Branch Homepage - Public Policy Issues to Watch