• Full Social Security benefits are expected to run out in 2035, per the program's trustees.
  • That's a year later than expected, and at that point, 83% of the benefits will be available.
  • Still, the uncertain fate of the program worries retirees who rely on Social Security.

As more Americans fear being unprepared for retirement — and rely solely on Social Security — those full benefits might not be long-lived.

The latest Social Security and Medicare Board of Trustees report found that the program will only be able to pay out full benefits for the next 11 years or so. That's later than the most recent estimates.

"There's a little bit more breathing room, but not enough to alter the conclusion, which is Congress must act," William Arnone, the CEO of the non-partisan National Academy of Social Insurance, told BI.

According to the report, the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund — one of the key funds comprising Social Security benefits — will be able to pay out full benefits through 2033. When taken together with Disability Insurance Fund, benefits will start becoming "depleted" in 2035 if Congress does not act.

That doesn't mean that Social Security benefits will completely dry up by 2035. Instead, the Trustees estimate that beginning that year, 83% of benefits will be available.

"This year's report is a measure of good news for the millions of Americans who depend on Social Security, including the roughly 50 percent of seniors for whom Social Security is the difference between poverty and living in dignity -- any potential benefit reduction event has been pushed off from 2034 to 2035," Martin O'Malley, Commissioner of Social Security, said in a statement.

The report credited a strong economy for the extra time.

"More people are contributing to Social Security, thanks to strong economic policies that have yielded impressive wage growth, historic job creation, and a steady, low unemployment rate. So long as Americans across our country continue to work, Social Security can — and will — continue to pay benefits," he said.

Still, the uncertain fate of Social Security has worried many Americans, particularly the ones who are close to retirement, who fear changes to the program could put their financial security at risk. For example, one 63-year-old previously told BI that "everybody my age is a little worried right now" given the looming retirement crisis that Social Security won't solve.

"It's simple math," she said. "You're talking about retiring, needing about $4,000 a month, at least, just to cover expenses. Just Social Security isn't going to cover that."

There's a growing need for federal benefits to be bolstered. According to the Census Bureau's Population Survey, just over half of Americans over the age of 65 make $30,000 or less annually. Meanwhile, among the income that typical retirees do receive, just under 80% see income from Social Security.

The latest estimates on Social Security also come as the US economy braces for a "peak boomer" wave of new retirees. The Alliance for Lifetime Income's Retirement Income Institute found that over 30 million boomers are set to start reaching the retirement age of 65 this year. That's the biggest group of boomers retiring yet, and, per that analysis, many will end up having to rely on Social Security benefits to stay afloat.

Meanwhile, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have vowed to protect Social Security. While some Democrats have accused Republican lawmakers of jeopardizing the program through proposals to raise the age at which Americans can receive federal benefits, Republican leaders have been adamant that they are not pushing forth any proposals that would cut the program.

"We cannot be clearer: we WILL NOT adjust or delay retirement benefits for any senior in or near retirement," GOP Rep. Kevin Hern, head of the Republican Study Committee, wrote in the committee's budget proposal for 2025.

Are you feeling financially unprepared for retirement, or worried about Social Security drying up? Contact these reporters at [email protected] and [email protected].

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