Around a quarter of Americans think they won't end up getting any money from Social Security during their retirement.
If you're one of the millions concerned about this benefits program going bankrupt, you're worrying about something that's probably not going to happen. But, there's actually a bigger retirement issue you should be concerned about that may be flying under your radar and that you can do something about.
Social Security isn't going bankrupt, but there's another problem jeopardizing retirement security
Fears of Social Security going bankrupt are unfounded. The benefits program is funded by payroll taxes, and current workers will continue to pay these taxes and provide money to pay retirees.
Even if the Social Security trust fund were to run out in 2034 as trustees are currently projecting, the worst-case scenario is that payroll taxes would still provide enough money to pay out 78% of promised benefits. While a 22% reduction in Social Security income wouldn't be good for seniors, retirees would still get the majority of the promised funds.
Due the popularity of Social Security, lawmakers are also extremely unlikely to allow these benefit cuts to happen. Ideally, politicians will be forced to compromise and shore up Social Security before the program is on the verge of a devastating benefit cut. But, even if that doesn't happen, deadlines and the threat of serious financial disaster have always been enough to break logjams and get Congress to take necessary actions to stave off a crisis.
So, future retirees really don't need to worry that Social Security won't be there for them. What they should instead be focusing on is the fact that far too many people have too little retirement savings. The median retirement account balance among all workers is just $93,000. That means millions of Americans simply aren't on track to have enough invested to supplement Social Security.
See, even if retirement benefits aren't subject to cuts, they're not enough to serve as a sole source of retirement funds. The average monthly benefit would provide only $18,528 in annual income, which isn't enough to cover necessities. And even retirees who beat the average will fall short if they only have Social Security to rely on since these benefits are meant to replace about 40% of pre-retirement income and no one wants to take a 60% pay cut.
How can you shore up your retirement savings?
While future retirees don't need to worry about getting nothing from Social Security, they must be realistic about the fact that these benefits aren't enough to live on. To ensure a comfortable retirement, every worker should make saving for retirement a top priority.
The good news is, there are plenty of opportunities to help you save, even if you don't have a ton of earnings. For example, the Saver's Credit makes it easier for lower-income Americans to invest, and most people can take advantage of tax breaks for retirement savings provided by accounts such as a 401(k) or IRA.
The key is to research these tax breaks, find an account that works for you, and begin contributing to it ASAP. Even if you can't invest a lot to start, you can work up to saving enough to hit your retirement goals. This is a crucial financial move, since while income from Social Security is a sure thing, only your actions will determine if you have the necessary income from savings to supplement it.