Summer is just about over, but we expect most Motley Fool Answers listeners didn't "sell in May and go away" -- you've been keeping up with matters of finance and investing all along...right?
However, if you happened to take a break from thinking about your money during beach season, you might have missed a few of Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp's monthly mailbag shows. In which case, you wouldn't have noticed that Ross Anderson -- certified financial planner from Motley Fool Wealth Management, a sister company of The Motley Fool, and a regular on the mailbag podcasts this spring -- took a break from his guest hosting duties as well, so that other Fools could get their time in the sun. Now, he's back to help the podcasting duo address another batch of listener queries.
In this segment, a couple in their 70s ask an important question about their future: We've all heard that if Washington lets the Social Security Trust Fund hit zero, the program won't be able to pay the same level of benefits we've been promised. But will it be cutting payouts to those who retired before that point? The Fools cover that, and then point to an equally serious issue for retirees that their listeners should be factoring into their finances.
A full transcript follows the video.
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This video was recorded on Aug. 28, 2018.
Alison Southwick: The next question comes from Gene and Becky. "I'm 72 and my wife is 71. I have a question about Bro's report on the status of Social Security from the July 17th episode. He reported that the program will run out of full funding by about 2034 if not before. He said something to the effect that those in their 50s and approaching retirement could count on getting only about 75% of their benefits. My question is what about those of us already in Social Security? Presuming we will still be around in 2034, in addition to facing creeping inflation, could we also be facing a benefits cut?"
Robert Brokamp: He is referring to when I talked about the Annual Trustees Report from the Social Security Administration. They basically said the trust funds will be depleted by, I guess, it was 2034. The year moves around every year, but it's always around there. And at that point, Social Security will be paid for by incoming payroll taxes and it will only be enough to cover about three-quarters of projected benefits. I think actually anyone in their fifties or younger should expect to plan on getting less. Hopefully that will not be the case, but I think it's just a prudent assumption.
I have not heard any sort of discussions that involve improving and enhancing the Social Security program that cuts benefits to people already receiving it. I think anyone who is receiving benefits is probably going to be spared any change that happens. There has to be change at some point, but I think anyone who's receiving benefits are probably OK.
But the bigger issue is something you touched on and that is inflation. Every year Social Security is adjusted for inflation...
Ross Anderson: Sort of.
Brokamp: Sort of. The inflation you usually hear about in the news is the CPI for Urban Consumers or CPI-U. It's actually different for Social Security. It's the CPI-W. Some years it lags CPI-U. It's been actually going a little faster. This year it's currently at 3.2%. In fact, in 2019 it might be the first time Social Security gets an adjustment of 3% or more since 2012. The problem is that many of the things that senior citizens spend money on actually grows at a rate faster, namely healthcare. So you do have to pay attention to how your overall income stream is going to keep up with inflation, because Social Security is probably not going to do that.