Published February 25, 2013
True or false: Social Security is going broke.
Whether you are 10 years or 10 months away from receiving this benefit, you’ve heard this rumor.
But Jordan Goodman, president of Jordan Goodman Financial Communications, says the gossip is false. While the government reported the program paid out more benefits and expenses than it received in taxes in 2012, the fund itself won’t be exhausted until 2033.
“By that point, payroll taxes will flow into the fund and it will be sufficient to pay only 75% of its costs,” Goodman says. “So if nothing changes, it will go broke. But it’s not about to happen tomorrow or next year.”
No one argues that Social Security is underfunded and that lawmakers need to figure out a way to rework the program to make it last longer, but Goodman tells workers to rest assured.
“They will have to figure out somewhat to [sustain the program]. You can’t just stop Social Security, so many people rely on it.”
Here are three other Social Security myths debunked, courtesy of Goodman:
Everyone should take Social Security as soon as they are eligible. This mentality is part of the reason the fund is going to be exhausted in the next 20 years, Goodman says. Seventy percent of the people who are eligible for Social Security at age 62 take it, but Goodman says waiting until you are 66 or 70 is financially better.
“You hurt your lifetime benefits by doing this, so you will get a lot less over your lifetime,” he says. “A lot of people just haven’t saved anything so they have no choice.”
And once you begin taking benefits you cannot backtrack. “People start taking it at age 62 and hurt themselves dramatically. You can’t change it once you start.”
There is no income limit for paying Social Security taxes. Taxpayers only pay Social Security taxes on up to $113,700 income annually, according to Goodman.
“There is no limit on Medicare taxes. You can make $10 million and still pay Medicare taxes. People tend to confuse those two.”
The cost of living adjustment is tied directly to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Goodman says the index will influence the adjustment amount, but it’s not always an exact dollar-for-dollar match. For example, in 2012 the increase was 1.7%, while inflation went up 2.2%.