AARP: 9 Ways to Strengthen Social Security

For decades, financial advisers have used the metaphor of a “three-legged stool” to describe America’s retirement system: that the equation for late-life security is having a healthy pension from work, ample personal savings and a monthly Social Security payment.

So much for that. Pensions that guarantee income for life are a dying breed in America, and too few Americans have accumulated a nest egg that can provide substantial monthly income across the full expanse of their retirement years. Less than 7 percent of retirees today have steady income from all three “legs of the stool,” reports the National Institute on Retirement Security.

Of those income streams, only Social Security has proven steadfast and strong. Not only is it the largest source of income for most retirees, but it also has never missed a monthly payment since it cut its first check to Ida May Fuller in 1940. Which is perhaps why so many Americans are anxious about its health. A 2020 AARP poll showed that 57 percent of Americans are not confident in the future of the program. ​

“Those who tend to distrust the government seem to have less faith that Social Security will be there for them in its current form,” said Michael Baughman, a financial planner in Tryon, North Carolina. “And as you work with younger clients, there is even less confidence in Social Security.”​

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