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Funding Your Future

Retirement Security Possible if Congress Acts

Photo: Courtesy of Christopher Burns

For decades, Americans relied on the three-legged stool of Social Security, pensions and personal savings for a secure retirement. Four decades of wage stagnation, attacks on traditional pension plans and political inaction threaten to put retirement out of reach for many Americans. It doesn’t have to be that way. We can strengthen Social Security and pensions and restore retirement security again.

For the 46 million retirees who now receive benefits, Social Security’s future is solid. According to the 2018 Trustees Report, Social Security will continue to pay 100 percent of retirement benefits until 2034. Future retirees can take heart. Without any changes, Social Security can fulfill 79 percent of its obligations for the next 75 years.

But we can do better. Social Security accounts for a big portion of retirement income. The average retirement benefit is modest — just $1,404 per month. If we make millionaires pay their fair share, we can increase monthly payments for all beneficiaries and increase the system’s solvency.

We also need to boost wages. Corporate profits are soaring, but most Americans’ wages have barely increased. Paying workers fairly would help families make ends meet while strengthening the Social Security Trust Fund for everyone.

Only wealthier Americans are actually living longer lives, and raising the retirement age means a benefit cut for most families. We should not raise the retirement age.

Similarly, workers who have defined benefit pension plans have earned the right to their pension benefits. It is critically important that pension funds are fiscally sound and able to meet the obligations owed to retirees. Today, far too many multiemployer pension plans are facing insolvency.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which pays partial benefits if a pension plan fails, warns that without congressional action, it will be unable to pay pensioners with insolvent plans within 7 years. Congress was quick to bail out Wall Street during the last recession, so it should stand ready to act and make sure the earned pension benefits workers were promised are actually delivered.

Congress has created a new 16-member bipartisan panel to study the solvency of multi-employer pension plans and the PBGC, but needs to take action to solve the problem soon.

American seniors have spent a lifetime working and have earned the right to a secure retirement. Congress must enact policy changes to make that a reality.

Robert Roach, Jr. is president of the Alliance for Retired Americans, an advocacy organization with 4.4 million members nationwide. 

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