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What Will Happen When Social Security Runs Out?

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

We had an interesting thing happen last week when over 1,200 people visited our website out of the blue. It turns out that there was a sudden interest in an article we released nearly three years ago, with the page going on the front page of Google! Since we wrote this article, we’ve seen a tripling of the number of people who view our content over the past few years, so we are going to share the article again with a few minor updates.

For our long timers, sorry for the repeat. For the new visitors, we hope you find it helpful.

At the end of August 2021, a new report was released that showed Social Security is projected to run out of money in 2033, one year earlier than previous calculations. With that deadline only 12 years away it is likely to impact everyone who is not already enrolled in Social Security as well as many who are. What will happen when the fund runs out? You may have heard that benefits will stop being paid once the fund runs out, but that is not likely to happen. We have laid out some of the changes that are likely to be made to Social Security over the next 12 years or after the fund runs out around 2033.

Reduced Benefits

If no changes are made before the fund runs out, the most likely result will be a reduction in the benefits that are paid out. If the only funds available to Social Security in 2033 are the current wage taxes being paid in, the administration would still be able to pay around 75% of promised benefits. While a 25% reduction in benefits could significantly hurt the retirement plans of those who are relying on their Social Security benefits, it is far less damaging than the program being shut down entirely.

With the potential for benefits to be reduced, some retirees may be tempted to apply for their benefits early to receive as much as they can before the fund runs out. However, if you start taking your benefits as soon as allowed, they will be reduced to 70% of your full-retirement age benefit. Comparing this to the 75% that could be received even after the fund runs out, you would still be hurting your retirement by applying early.

Increased Wage Taxes

To avoid benefit reductions, congress may vote to increase the Social Security taxes charged on employee wages. If the increase were put in place immediately, the employee portion of the tax would need to increase from 6.2% to 8%. This would represent an additional $900 in taxes paid annually for an employee making $50,000 per year.

Another proposal in wage taxes that has become popular in recent years is an additional tax on high earners. Rather than increasing the social security tax of 6.2% on all payers, this would implement a new tax on wage income above $400,000 to help stabilize the social security fund.

Increased Full Retirement Age

Even if the fund does not run out, the full retirement age needed to receive your full Social Security benefit is likely to go up in the future as life expectancies increase. Since the Social Security program was first started the average life expectancy has increased 7 years and yet the full age retirement for Social Security has only increased 2 years. As the fund begins to run out, it is likely that the full retirement age will be raised even further, along with harsher benefit cuts for those who apply early.


While Social Security benefits are unlikely to be completely eliminated 12 years from now, there is a strong possibility that they will be reduced significantly if revenues are not increased in the next few years. To make sure that your retirement plan is secure, you should analyze your retirement income stream under the assumption that your Social Security benefits will be reduced and determine what changes need to be made if that happens.

This article is a general communication being provided for informational and educational purposes only and is not meant to be taken as tax advice, investment advice or a recommendation for any specific investment product or strategy. The information contained herein does not take your financial situation, investment objective or risk tolerance into consideration. Readers, including professionals, should under no circumstances rely upon this information as a substitute for their own research or for obtaining specific legal, accounting or tax advice from their own counsel. Any examples are hypothetical and for illustration purposes only. All investments involve risk and can lose value, the market value and income from investments may fluctuate in amounts greater than the market. All information discussed herein is current only as of the date of publication and is subject to change at any time without notice. Forecasts may not be realized due to a multitude of factors, including but not limited to, changes in economic conditions, corporate profitability, geopolitical conditions, inflation or US tax policy. This material has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but its accuracy, completeness and interpretation cannot be guaranteed.

LEGAL, INVESTMENT AND TAX NOTICE. This information is not intended to be and should not be treated as legal, investment, accounting or tax advice.

Copyright 2021. Monotelo Advisors Inc. All Rights Reserved

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