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The Most Important Social Security Chart You'll Ever See

By Christy Bieber - Mar 7, 2020 at 9:03AM

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Don't make your retirement plan without taking a look at it.

For half of all married senior couples, Social Security provides at least 50% of monthly income. And for about one in five couples, Social Security is the source of 90% or more of retirement funds. 

For singles, reliance on Social Security is even greater, with 70% of unmarried persons getting at least half their income from it and 45% relying on it for 90% or more of their retirement money.  

Unfortunately, this means millions of Americans over-rely on their Social Security benefits, which are only meant to replace about 40% of pre-retirement income while most experts recommend replacing about 70% at a minimum. 

When you're making your retirement plans, you need to know what it really means to live on Social Security. The chart below will give you a lot to think about when you're deciding just how important it is to have supplementary savings so your benefits aren't the only source of funds available to you. 

Social Security check sitting on top of money.

Image source: Getty Images.

Don't make your retirement plans without looking at this Social Security chart

The chart below compares the amount of annual income the average Social Security benefit provided each year to the federal poverty level for that year.  

Chart comparing average Social Security benefit to federal poverty level

Image source: Author

As you can see, if you try to rely on Social Security alone, your income will be just above the poverty level. In 2020, you'd have just $5,276 more than the amount you'd need to be defined as living in poverty. And you'd have well below the amount most senior households actually spend.

For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the mean average expenditure for someone 65 and older was $50,860 in 2018, while the average Social Security benefit for that year provided just $16,848 in income. That's more than a $34,000 shortfall. 

Having so little income means you'll have almost no wiggle room in your budget. It means you'll likely struggle to cover basic expenses, and will very likely have little or no money left over to enjoy life. That's especially true given that seniors are likely to face higher medical expenses than the population as a whole. 

And unfortunately, because you're just above the poverty level if you receive the average benefit, you won't be able to qualify for many programs that could make life easier but that use the poverty level as a cut-off point for eligibility. 

You need supplementary savings because Social Security isn't enough

As the chart above makes clear, relying on Social Security as your sole source of retirement income is going to make life very hard for you.

While millions of current retirees depend too much on their Social Security checks, you don't have to become one of them if you start saving money early and you get serious about saving enough to build a big retirement nest egg. 

When you have plenty of additional income to supplement your Social Security benefits, you'll be able to enjoy life in your later years and you'll be very glad you made the effort. 

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