The Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance Trust Funds will be depleted in the next 17 years, according to the Social Security Administration's trustees report.
By 2034 the combined asset reserves of both funds are expected to be insolvent. Alone, the Disability Insurance Trust Fund will be insolvent by 2028.
Recent Stories in Issues
According to the report, the trust funds have a total asset reserves of $2.85 trillion. Even though the trust fund reserves are growing, the cost of the program will outweigh the revenue by 2022.
"It is time for the public to engage in the important national conversation about how to keep Social Security strong," said Nancy A. Berryhill, acting commissioner of Social Security. "People understand the value of their earned Social Security benefits and the importance of keeping the program secure for the future."
In 2016, the program took in $957 billion in income but still had expenditures as high as $922 billion.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget suggests policymakers phase in gradual changes that would allow for more time to plan but also promote long-term economic growth.
"The Social Security Trustees continue to underscore the need to address Social Security’s financing shortfall soon," the committee said. "Failure to act would result in all beneficiaries receiving a 23 percent across-the-board benefit cut when the combined trust fund exhausts in just 17 years, when today's 50-year-olds reach the normal retirement age. The SSDI program faces an even more immediate deadline and will deplete its trust fund in 2028."
"Policymakers can still address Social Security's financial problem without making drastic tax or benefit changes, but the window for responsible action is closing," the committee said. "If policymakers are willing to act soon, they can create a plan that strengthens the program’s finances while phasing in changes gradually to give workers time to plan, improving retirement security for vulnerable beneficiaries and promoting long-term economic growth."
While some argue that taxes should be raised to save Social Security, David Barnes, director of policy engagement for Generation Opportunity, argues that it needs to be reformed instead.
"Some claim that the solution to preserving Social Security is to raise more taxes, but history shows that doesn't work," said Barnes. "In fact, since Social Security was created, payroll taxes have been raised more than 20 times. Twenty times! Yet, the program is still headed towards insolvency."
"Fixing Social Security isn't about throwing more money at the problem—it's about structurally reforming the program so it works better for current retirees and is still around for my generation when we reach retirement age," he said. "Otherwise, without serious change, young people must be given the choice to opt-out."