When Will Social Security Benefits Run Out?

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

Social Security benefits are an essential source of income for millions of retired Americans. For decades, the program has been a reliable source of financial assistance for those who have contributed to it throughout their working lives. However, many people are concerned about the future of Social Security and wonder when benefits may run out. This guide will look at the issue and provide all the information you need to understand the current state of Social Security benefits.

When Will Social Security Run Out?

According to the Social Security Board of Trustees 2021 annual report, the trust funds that dispense retirement, disability, and other Social Security payments will run out of surplus by 2034. That is one year sooner than expected in the 2020 annual report.

It does not imply that Social Security would be gone; it merely implies that the system would exhaust its cash reserves and be able to pay out only what it takes year-to-year in Social Security contributions. If this happens, Social Security will pay approximately 78% of the benefits owed to retired and disabled individuals.

The current state of Social Security benefits

Social Security benefits are currently being paid out to millions of retired Americans. As of 2023, the average monthly Social Security benefit is $1,544. However, the program’s future is uncertain due to several factors affecting its solvency.

The factors that influence the solvency of Social Security

Several factors influence Social Security’s solvency, including demographic changes, economic conditions, and government policies. For example, the aging of the Baby Boomer generation has put a strain on the program, as more people are retiring and claiming benefits. In addition, the low birth rate in recent years has reduced the number of workers paying into the system, contributing to the program’s funding shortfall.

The projected timeline for Social Security benefits

The Social Security Administration has projected that the program’s trust fund will be depleted by 2034, and benefits will need to be reduced unless changes are made to the program. However, even if the trust fund is depleted, the program could still pay out some benefits since workers would continue to pay into the system.

How Social Security benefits are funded

Social Security benefits are funded through payroll taxes paid by workers and their employers. Currently, the tax rate is 6.2% for employees and 6.2% for employers, up to a maximum wage base of $147,000 in 2023. The revenue from these taxes is used to pay current benefits, and any excess is invested in the program’s trust fund.

The potential solutions to the Social Security funding crisis

Potential solutions to the Social Security funding crisis include increasing payroll taxes, raising the retirement age, and means-testing benefits. However, each solution has drawbacks and limitations, and there is no consensus on the best approach.

Increasing payroll taxes

One potential solution to the Social Security funding crisis is to increase payroll taxes. This could be done by raising the tax rate, increasing the maximum wage base, or both. However, this would be unpopular with many workers and employers and could hurt the economy.

Raising the retirement age

Another potential solution is to raise the retirement age, which would reduce the number of people claiming benefits and increase the number of workers paying into the system. However, this would be unpopular with many older Americans, who would have to work longer before they could retire.

Means-testing benefits

Means-testing benefits is another potential solution limiting benefits for higher-income retirees. However, this would be unpopular with many Americans who believe that Social Security benefits should be available to everyone who has paid into the program.

How Is Social Security Funded?

The money in the trust funds comes from three sources:

  • 89.6%: The Social Security tax is paid on most American employees’ salaries through FICA payroll taxes or the SECA taxes paid by self-employed individuals via their IRS returns.
  • 3.6%: The Social Security recipient’s taxable income minus any benefits received.
  • 6.8%: Interest earned on the money in the trust funds.

Last year, the trust funds had $2.9 trillion in reserves. But there were more people collecting benefits than contributing income to these funds because of changes in population and numbers. For example, the boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) are growing the number of retired people (those who collect benefits). Still, there are fewer children born, which leads to fewer contributors to Social Security taxes.

The coronavirus pandemic has also had an impact on Social Security. When people lose their jobs, they can’t pay payroll taxes. That means Social Security doesn’t have enough money to pay people.

How Can Annuities Supplement A Retirement Income In Case Social Security Does Run Out?

An annuity is a financial product that provides a guaranteed income stream for a specified period, typically for the annuitant’s life. Annuities can be an effective tool for retirees to protect their retirement income in case Social Security benefits run out of money.

First, it’s important to note that annuities are not a replacement for Social Security benefits but rather a supplement. However, Social Security benefits are still the primary source of retirement income for most Americans, and annuities should be used to supplement that income.

One of the main benefits of annuities is their ability to provide a guaranteed income stream for life. Retirees can have peace of mind knowing they will receive a certain amount of income each month, regardless of market fluctuations or other external factors.

In addition, annuities can protect against inflation. Many annuities offer inflation-adjusted payments, which means that the income stream will increase over time to keep up with the rising cost of living.

Another benefit of annuities is their tax-deferred status. This means that the earnings on an annuity are not subject to taxes until they are withdrawn, which can help retirees to maximize their retirement income.

It’s important to note that annuities can be complex financial products, and many different types are available. Therefore, retirees should carefully consider their options and work with a financial advisor to determine the best annuity for their needs.


Social Security benefits are an essential source of income for millions of Americans, but the program’s future is uncertain. While the trust fund is projected to be depleted by 2034, potential solutions could help ensure the program’s long-term solvency. However, any changes to Social Security benefits will likely be controversial and require careful consideration and public debate.

In the meantime, it’s significant for retirees and those approaching retirement age to understand the current Social Security benefits and plan accordingly. This may involve adjusting retirement goals or considering alternative sources of income.

Overall, it’s important to remember that Social Security benefits are a vital safety net for millions of Americans, and any changes to the program must be made with care and consideration. However, by staying informed and engaged, we can help to ensure that Social Security benefits remain a reliable source of financial assistance for generations to come.

Related Reading: Social Security Savvy

When Will Social Security Run Out?

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Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

I’m a licensed financial professional focusing on annuities and insurance for more than a decade. My former role was training financial advisors, including for a Fortune Global 500 insurance company. I’ve been featured in Time Magazine, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, Entrepreneur, Bloomberg, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, and Women’s Health Magazine.

The Annuity Expert is an online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. My goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning or find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates for you. 

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