Americans fear Social Security will go broke, poll shows

The prospect of Social Security running out of money in their lifetimes haunts the vast majority of Americans over age 50. More than three-quarters (78 percent) of future retirees in that age group and almost two-thirds (63 percent) of those who retired in the past 10 years share that concern. These are just two of the key findings of a recent poll conducted by the Nationwide Retirement Institute (NRI).

Here's another major worry: Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of future and recent retirees are concerned about cuts to Social Security under the Trump administration. This is so despite President Donald Trump's promise on the campaign trail that he wouldn't cut Social Security benefits.

But that doesn't mean all these people think the current situation is just fine. More than four in five future retirees (82 percent) and 79 percent of recent retirees believe Social Security needs to change. And almost two-thirds of these groups cite the need for increased funding as Social Security's biggest problem.

It should be no surprise that future and recent retirees are concerned about Social Security's funding, given its trustees' annual ritual of publicizing the year when the program's fund will be exhausted. (According to the most recent trustee report, that year is 2034.) 

Many people think they'll receive nothing from Social Security if the trust fund is exhausted, but that's not true. The latest report points out that if the trust fund is exhausted and Congress doesn't intervene to shore up the system's finances, retirees would still receive about three-fourths of their benefits. These benefits would be financed by the FICA taxes current workers pay in 2034 and beyond.

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