Social Security has served as a retirement foundation for hundreds of millions of American workers ever since its creation in 1935. Today, low-income seniors – those with incomes below $20,100 – receive over 80 percent of their income from the Social Security monthly check. Even for those in the middle quintile – with incomes between $20,100 and $32,600 – over two-thirds of their monthly income is a result of Social Security. By any reasonable standard, Social Security has been the most successful antipoverty program in the nation’s history. The program currently serves over 47 million Americans, and it must continue to serve as a social safety net in the future.
Social Security’s fiscal outlook, however, is unsustainable, due largely to three factors. First and foremost, the Baby Boom generation is on the cusp of retirement, carrying with it a wave of new beneficiaries who will draw upon (rather than contribute to) the Social Security Trust Fund. The ratio of workers to retirees has been stable for many years, but the retirement of the baby boomers will rapidly shrink this ratio over the next two decades.