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Here's a Good Reason to Give Up on Social Security

By Maurie Backman – Apr 28, 2019 at 8:08AM

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And it's not because the program is going bankrupt.

Millions of seniors today depend on Social Security to pay the bills, but the program's financial woes are by no means a secret. Social Security has already begun tapping its trust funds because its incoming revenue won't suffice in keeping up with its obligations. Come 2035, those trust funds are expected to completely run dry.

As such, many Americans find themselves questioning whether they can really count on Social Security way into the future. In fact, 76% of workers today are concerned that Social Security won't be there for them when they're ready to retire, according to Transamerica.

Social Security card with the bottom half faded

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Now the truth is that while a reduction in future benefits certainly isn't off the table, the program, in its current form, is by no means in danger of completely going broke. That's because its primary revenue source is payroll taxes, and so as long as we have an active workforce, the program has money coming in. That said, writing off Social Security for your retirement isn't such a bad idea, as it might serve as the push you need to do a better job of saving for your golden years.

Social Security's limitations

Many seniors today struggle financially because they get all, or most, of their income from Social Security. But those benefits aren't designed to sustain seniors in the absence of other income sources.

In a best-case scenario, Social Security will replace about 40% of your previous income if you were an average earner. If benefits are cut beginning in 2034, it will replace an even smaller percentage. Most seniors, however, need roughly 80% of their former earnings to live comfortably, which means that depending on Social Security alone in retirement is apt to leave you seriously short on cash.

That's why you may want to train your brain into thinking that Social Security won't, in fact, be available to you as a senior. That way, you can take savings matters into your own hands and stop making excuses for neglecting your nest egg.

Securing your future

Saving for retirement is easier said than done, but making a few sacrifices during your working years could enable you to build substantial wealth in time for your golden years. That could mean downsizing to a smaller home, getting a second job on top of your primary one, or just plain spending more judiciously so that there's money left over every month to stick in your IRA or 401(k).

How much savings might you accumulate as a result of your efforts? It depends on your savings window and the amount you're able to sock away on a regular basis, but if you're fairly young when you begin contributing to an IRA or 401(k), there's a good chance you'll accrue quite a bit of wealth. Here's a sampling of what your nest egg might look like by the time you retire:

Monthly Savings Amount

Ending Balance After 40 Years at an Average Annual 7% Return

$100

$240,000

$200

$479,000

$300

$719,000

$400

$958,000

$500

$1.2 million

$600

$1.44 million

$700

$1.67 million

Data source: AUTHOR.

Having a 40-year savings window puts you in a good position to build a substantial amount of wealth without parting with too much cash month after month. Of course, the longer you wait to start saving for retirement, the more money you'll need to contribute to your IRA or 401(k) to match these numbers. Still, it's doable if you're motivated to make that effort, and if pretending that Social Security won't be around in the future is what it takes to light that fire, then you're better off telling yourself that those benefits are, indeed, going away.

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