Will Millennials Receive Social Security Benefits?

Many are Concerned Retirement Funds Won't be Available

African American millennial woman smiling as she hold piggy bank which represents her post-retirement income instead of Social Security
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If you're a millennial worried about the future solvency of Social Security, you're not alone. In fact, 77% of workers were concerned Social Security would not exist when it came time for them to retire, a recent survey found.

The good news is that the future of Social Security for millennials will likely not be as bleak as expected.

“Young people frequently ask: ‘Will Social Security be there for me?’" states Carolyn Colvin—former acting commissioner of Social Security. "I take this question very seriously, and I am sure Social Security will be there in the future.”

Although the Social Security Board of Trustees has reported that Social Security trust fund reserves will likely run out by 2034, it doesn’t mean that the program will come to an end. Once these reserves run out, people and employers will still be paying the required Social Security payroll taxes, though that money is expected to cover only 76% of expected future benefits.

In other words, if nothing changes, the amount of Social Security benefits paid out will likely be smaller, which means that a larger portion of millennials' retirement funds will need to come from sources beyond Social Security.

How Much Social Security Money Will I Receive?

If you're a millennial, it's still a bit early to determine exactly what Social Security benefits would be available to you and at what age you'd be able to access them.

A number of factors determine the amount of Social Security benefits you can receive, including how long you work, how much money you make each year, and the age at which you begin receiving benefits. Any future changes to related laws could also impact your benefit amount.

But if you want a number for comparison's sake, the average monthly Social Security benefit in June 2020 was $1,514. Considering this, it's safe to assume that you should not rely on Social Security entirely for your post-retirement income.

Social Security and the Cost of Living

Another reason to make sure you have another source of retirement income is to look at what has been happening the purchasing power of the money that Social Security pays out.

For example, Social Security benefits lost 33% of their buying power from 2000 to 2019, because the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to Social Security retirement benefits has not been enough to keep up with inflation.

Those who receive Social Security benefits automatically get the COLA increase in their payments. Social Security benefits increased by 1.6% in 2020 and will increase by 1.3% in 2021.  The annual rate of inflation in the U.S. was 2.3% in 2019 and 1.4% in the 12 months ended in September 2020.

While Social Security may not be completely out of the picture for millennials who would someday like to retire, it isn't a fool-proof plan, nor is it a means to fund one's entire retirement.

If you want to retire comfortably, then work on creating a resilient retirement plan. Determine what and how you need to save now, i.e. funding a 401(k) or IRA, so that you can retire no matter what happens with Social Security.

The Balance does not provide tax, investment, or financial services and advice. The information is being presented without consideration of the investment objectives, risk tolerance, or financial circumstances of any specific investor and might not be suitable for all investors. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Investing involves risk including the possible loss of principal.

Article Sources

  1. Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. "19th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey: A Compendium of Findings About U.S. Workers," Page 13. Accessed Oct. 22, 2020.

  2. Social Security Administration. "Social Security Funded Until 2034, and About Three-Quarters Funded for the Long Term; Many Options to Address the Long-Term Shortfall." Accessed Oct. 22, 2020.

  3. Social Security Administration. "A Summary of the 2020 Annual Reports: What Are Key Dates in OASI, DI, and HI Financing?" Accessed Oct. 22, 2020.

  4. Social Security Administration. "How the Rtirement Estimator Works." Accessed Oct. 22, 2020.

  5. Social Security Administration. "Social Security Fact Sheet." Accessed Oct. 22, 2020.

  6. The Senior Citizens League. "2019 Loss of Buying Power Study: Social Security Benefits Lose 33% of Buying Power Since 2000." Accessed Oct. 22, 2020.

  7. Social Security Administration. "Fact Sheet: 2020 Social Security Changes," Page 1. Accessed Oct. 22, 2020.

  8. Social Security Administration. "Fact Sheet: 2021 Social Security Changes," Page 1. Accessed Oct. 22, 2020.

  9. US Inflation Calculator. "Current US Inflation Rates: 2009-2020." Accessed Oct. 22, 2020.