Social Security is a critical income source for millions of retired seniors today. And without those benefits, many seniors would no doubt struggle to make ends meet.

But unfortunately, Social Security's finances are in a shaky spot. In the coming years, the program is expected to owe more in scheduled benefits than it collects in payroll taxes.

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Thankfully, Social Security has trust funds it can tap to bridge that gap for a period of time. But that period is dwindling down.

According to Social Security's latest Trustee Report, its combined trust funds may be depleted as early as 2035. From there, Social Security may need to slash benefits by 17% if lawmakers don't find other ways to pump more money into the program.

Clearly, that's not the best of news. But it also doesn't mean you need to write off the idea of a comfortable retirement.

Strong savings can make up for smaller benefits

It's true that many older Americans today are heavily reliant on Social Security. But with a savvy approach to savings, you don't have to be.

Let's imagine you're in your 30s and are hearing about Social Security cuts now. Chances are, you have another 30 years of work ahead of you. That gives you plenty of time to build a strong enough nest egg that a 17% Social Security cut won't really hurt you.

In fact, if you manage to sock away $500 a month over the next 30 years at an average annual 9% return, which is a notch below the stock market's average, you'll end up with a nest egg worth about $818,000. With savings like that, you may be more than well-equipped to cope with a future monthly Social Security check that's 17% less than what it should've been.

Of course, if you're older, you might need to really ramp up on retirement plan contributions to make up for Social Security cuts. But it's something that can be done. And even if you're already retired, joining the gig economy could put extra cash in your pocket -- enough to replace the Social Security income you may inevitably end up losing.

Another thing you can do if you haven't claimed Social Security already is delay your filing a few extra years. For each year you hold off on taking benefits beyond full retirement age, up to age 70, your payments get a permanent boost. So if benefits are then cut, you'll be starting off with a higher baseline.

Benefit cuts aren't a given -- but it's best to assume that they are

Let's be clear about one thing. This isn't the first time in Social Security's history that the program has faced benefits cuts. And on previous occasions, lawmakers have always managed to avoid them.

As such, it's important to recognize that Social Security cuts aren't a sure thing. But it's also important to assume that they're coming, just in case. This way, you can plan accordingly and avoid a personal financial hit.

In fact, even if Social Security benefits aren't reduced broadly, you should know that in a best-case scenario, they'll replace about 40% of your pre-retirement income if you earn an average wage. Most seniors need roughly twice that much money for a comfortable lifestyle. So it's a really good idea to aggressively fund your nest egg during your career no matter what.