The Last Time Congress Overhauled Social Security, 150 Million Americans Weren't Even Born

Social Security is truly an incredible social program. Each month, more than 62 million people, comprised of retired workers, survivors of deceased workers, and qualifying long-term disabled workers, receive a benefit check. And for over 22 million of these beneficiaries, this payout will keep them out of poverty, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That's how crucial a role this program plays in helping to keep seniors, the disabled, and the survivors of deceased workers on solid financial footing.

Social Security is set to face its biggest challenge yet

However, America's most important social program isn't on solid ground. The latest report from the Social Security Board of Trustees, released in June, points to trouble in the not-so-distant future. The Trustees estimate that Social Security will expend more than it generates in income this year for the first time since 1982. Although we're only talking about a projected net cash outflow of $1.7 billion, the point is that it signifies the unsustainability of the current payout schedule.

Of course, the outlook gets much worse. With these net cash outflows accelerating as a result of numerous demographic shifts by 2020 and beyond, Social Security's nearly $2.9 trillion in asset reserves are expected to be completely depleted by the year 2034. Without any excess cash, Social Security will say goodbye to one of its three sources of income (interest).

What's more, without any help from lawmakers, it's expected that this exhaustion of the program's asset reserves will lead to an across-the-board benefits cut of up to 21% for existing and future beneficiaries by 2034. That's a terrifying proposition, with 62% of current retirees leaning on Social Security for at least half of their income.

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