Social Security’s 81st birthday is a great time to reflect on how successful it has been in providing retirement income to older Americans. At the time of its passage in 1935, almost half of older Americans lived in poverty. While first simply a retirement program, today, Social Security offers survivors’ benefits, benefits to a retiree’s spouse, and disability benefits. Social Security is the foundation of economic security for millions of Americans and their families. Here in Maine, one third of Mainers 65 plus who are on Social Security rely on their benefit for 100 percent of their income. Without Social Security, over 80,000 older Mainers would fall into poverty.
Your parents, your grandparents, and one day you, too, will benefit from Social Security.
Whether you’re giving comfort and support to an aging parent or you’re in the twilight of your twenties or thirties, Social Security is relevant. If you are working, you are paying into it. If you are on a fixed income, but still hoping to retire and be able to pay all your bills, you can count on Social Security to help. In fact, hundreds of thousands of Mainers, and millions of Americans, count on it each and every day. But we need Congress to update the program for the 21st Century without delay.
The bottom line is that the Social Security Trust Funds will continue to pay out 100 percent of expected benefits to retirees until 2034. After 2034, with no changes to the system, beneficiaries will only receive 75 percent of what they are owed. While 2034 may seem a long way off, the Social Security trustees report signals a need for steps to be taken now to strengthen the program for the future.
We need our elected leaders and candidates for office to act. Where do the presidential candidates stand on Social Security? It is time for both candidates to lead on Social Security, and give us real answers about how they’ll keep it strong for us and for future generations. While we can find information about their current plans at www.2016takeastand.org, we deserve to know much more about how their plan will affect our families, what it will cost, and how they will effectively implement it.
Here are a few reasons why we should be demanding action from every candidate running for federal office this election season on the issue of Social Security:
- Maine is the oldest state per capita in the country with more than 226,000 residents over the age of 65.
- Social Security was founded to ensure that older Americans had some degree of financial security as they got older. Currently, 46 percent of Maine private sector employees (235,000) do not have access to a retirement plan. Add to this the shocking statistic that more than half of older workers between 55 and 64 have no retirement savings, and suddenly the importance of Social Security to older Mainers becomes a top financial priority.
- 24 percent of Maine residents receive Social Security benefits, and more than 60 percent of them are retirees.
- Social Security remains the only source of income for one in three Mainers over the age of 65 and more than 50 percent of the income for two in three Mainers over 65.
Social Security is the only steady retirement income for a majority of older Mainers. The national conversation during this election continues to underplay this important issue with little or no mention by either party or by the media.
This is why AARP launched our Take A Stand campaign: To bring attention and focus to Social Security and to the overall financial security of older Americans around the country. AARP has even pulled policy ideas together from both sides of the aisle to represent multiple perspectives. Up for consideration are 12 different proposals that could strengthen the program long-term.
Too many Mainers depend on Social Security to get by and we cannot continue to ignore the fact that the program needs to be updated for the 21st Century. Please join me in Taking a Stand at www.2016TakeAStand.org. Strengthening Social Security now and for the future has never been more important.
AARP Maine Outreach Director