Social Security is a perennial crisis. Eighty-three percent of Generation X and 77% of millennials say they worry that the program will run out of money in their lifetimes, according to a June 2021 Harris poll for the Nationwide Retirement Institute. The latest report of the Social Security Trustees backs them up, finding that the Old Age and Survivors Insurance trust fund “will be able to pay scheduled benefits on a timely basis until 2034, one year later than reported last year.” That’s only 12 years from now.
When Congress passed the Social Security Act of 1935, 42 people worked for each 65-year-old retiree. The trust fund ran surpluses for years. But as life spans grew longer and birthrates declined, fewer wage earners were called on to support more retirees. By the start of the Covid pandemic, there were only 2.7 workers per retiree.