Author Archives: Tony Kendzior - Financial Planner

About Tony Kendzior - Financial Planner

I've lived happily, raised a family, and enjoyed a professional life in Gainesville for over 50 years. The next several years are full of promise. My goal is to find new clients, new friends and somehow share the wisdom I've accumulated over these many years. And when I have time, play a little golf and travel with my family. Cheers!

The Stark Reality of Social Security: Someone Has to Take a Pay Cut

My Comments: As a financial planner focused on retirement, I counsel people about where the money is going to come from when they’re 85 and still have bills to pay. And 85 is simply a symbolic number.

A critical source for most of us is Social Security. And it’s under attack by those we’ve elected to represent us in Congress. These words appeared some 20 months ago and since then the pressure has grown stronger.

We need to take a hard look at those we vote for and make sure we’re not shooting ourselves in the foot.

By Sean Williams Published January 22, 2017

According to the November update from the Social Security Administration, nearly 61 million people are receiving monthly Social Security benefit checks, roughly two-thirds of whom are retired workers. For these retirees, more than 60% rely on their Social Security check to account for at least half of their monthly income. In other words, without Social Security there would likely be widespread poverty among the elderly.

The stark reality of Social Security: Someone’s going to lose

Unfortunately, the program that so many seniors have come to rely on is on the decline, so to speak. Two major demographic shifts — the ongoing retirement of baby boomers and lengthening life expectancies — are expected to turn the program’s cash inflow into an outflow by the year 2020, according to the Social Security Board of Trustees 2016 report. By 2034, it’s estimated that the more than $2.8 trillion currently held in special issue bonds and certificates of indebtedness will have been completely exhausted, at which point an across-the-board cut in benefits of up to 21% may be needed to sustain the program for future generations.

The silver lining throughout Social Security’s imminent decline is that there are a bounty of possible fixes — more than a dozen, to be precise. Some of the Social Security solutions tackle the problem by boosting revenue into the program, while others examine the possibility of cutting benefits in a variety of ways. Thus far, an agreeable solution to fix Social Security has eluded lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

However, there’s a stark reality that these lawmakers, Social Security recipients, and working Americans need to understand: There is no “perfect” fix. If Social Security does have a “best solution,” it’s going to mean that someone has to take a pay cut. In order for the program to serve future generations of retirees, there’s going to have to be some give somewhere. The big question is where it’ll come from.

Should all workers take a pay cut?

One solution that offers a presumed-to-be-bonafide fix is an immediate, across-the-board payroll tax increase on all working Americans. According to the aforementioned Trustees report from 2016, the researchers estimated a 75-year actuarial deficit of 2.66%, down two basis points from the previous year. In English, this means enacting a 2.66% increase in the payroll tax should allow the program to generate enough revenue that no benefit cuts would be needed until the year 2090.

As a refresher, the payroll tax for Social Security is 12.4%, and responsibility for this tax is often split down the middle between you and your employer, 6.2% each. If you’re self-employed, you pay the entire 12.4%. In 2017, the payroll tax applies to every dollar earned between $1 and $127,200. However, wages earned above and beyond $127,200 are free and clear of the payroll tax.

Lifting the payroll tax by 2.66% would mean an aggregate tax of 15.06% on the income of self-employed individuals and a cumulative tax of 7.53% of employees and employers. Workers would have to do with less in their take-home pay, but seniors would more than likely not have to worry about a cut to their Social Security benefits.

Do the rich need to fork over more?

Another solution (and this one is by far the most popular among the public) would be to focus on wealthier Americans and have them pay a larger portion of their income into Social Security. This would be done by tinkering with the payroll tax earnings cap — the aforementioned $127,200 cap at which wages no longer become taxable by the payroll tax.

During her campaign, Hillary Clinton had suggested raising the payroll tax earnings cap to $250,000. By doing so, there would be a payroll tax moratorium on wages between $127,200 and $250,000, but any wages over $250,000 would be subject to the 12.4% tax. The reason lifting the payroll tax earnings cap is so popular is that it would only affect about one in 10 Americans. Since most working Americans are paying into Social Security with every dollar they earn, it would only make sense to most Americans to see the wealthy have to do the same. It would also wind up eliminating a good portion but not all of the budgetary shortfall in Social Security through 2090.

The downside? Other than the fact that the well-to-do would be taking home less income, they also wouldn’t see commensurate benefits from Social Security when they retire, despite paying so much extra into the system.

Do future retirees need to make do with less?

The other side of the equation is to leave the revenue aspect of Social Security alone and tinker with the benefits being paid. Most lawmakers wouldn’t dare suggest reducing the benefits of current retirees, but the idea of adjusting the payouts to future retirees is very much on the table, especially for Republican lawmakers.

The most effective way to reduce benefits for a future generation of retirees without using the words “reduce benefits” would be to raise the full retirement age. Your full retirement age is determined by your birth year (you can find yours with this SSA table), and it marks the age at which the SSA determines you’re eligible to receive 100% of your monthly benefit. File for benefits before reaching your full retirement age, and you’ll take a cut in pay from your full retirement benefit. Wait until after your full retirement age and your benefit will grow beyond 100%.

Raising the full retirement age to 68, 69, or 70 would mean that all brand-new and future retirees would either have to wait longer to receive 100% of their benefit, or they’d have to accept an even bigger reduction in their monthly payout if they claim benefits before reaching their full retirement age. Raising the retirement age could encourage healthy seniors to stay in the workforce longer, thus adding to payroll tax revenue in the process. On the flip side, seniors in poor health or those who can’t get a job could be forced to file for benefits at age 62, taking a big cut in lifetime benefits in the process.

Should current retirees deal with reduced income?

It’s certainly not a popular solution, but cutting benefits for current retirees is another possible answer to fixing Social Security.

One such example was recently touted in the Social Security Reform Act of 2016, introduced by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), the chairman of the Ways and Means Social Security subcommittee. Among the many fixes offered by Johnson, one involved switching from the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) to the Chained CPI when it comes to calculating cost-of-living adjustments (COLA).

The difference between the two is that the Chained CPI factors in “substitution,” which is the perception that consumers will trade down to lesser expensive goods and services if the price of another good or service rises too much, while the CPI-W does not. Because the Chained CPI factors in substitution, it grows at a slower pace than the CPI-W. The implication being that going with a Chained CPI will result in lower COLAs for retirees.

Which solution is best is really up to interpretation, but one thing is very clear: If Social Security is going to be fixed for the generations to come, someone is going to take a pay cut.

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Behold the ‘scariest chart’ for the stock market

My Comments: By now you’ll perhaps realize that whatever I say about what is likely to happen in the markets is wrong, and that you’d be better off doing just the opposite.

That’s OK. And if you are young and retirement is a few decades away, it’s OK to ride it out. But if you’re no longer young and foolish, then articles like this one from Sue Chang need to be read. What you do about it is up to you.

by Sue Chang, August 9, 2018

A lot has changed since the stock market crash of 2000. Apple Inc. has gone from being just another computer brand to becoming the most valuable company in the world, Amazon.com Inc. went from being an e-book retailer to a byword for online shopping and Tesla’s Elon Musk has risen from obscurity to Twitter stardom.

Yet some things never change and Doug Ramsey, chief investment officer at Leuthold Group, has been on a mini-campaign highlighting the parallels between 2000 and 2018.

Among the numerous similarities is the elevated valuation of the S&P 500 then and now, which Ramsey illustrates in a chart that he has dubbed as the “scariest chart in our database.”
“Recall that the initial visit to present levels was followed by the S&P 500’s first-ever negative total return decade,” he said in a recent blog post.

Price-to-sales ratio is one measure of a stock’s value. It isn’t as popular as the price-to-earnings ratio, or P/E, but is viewed as less susceptible to manipulation since it is based on revenue.

He also shared a chart which he claims is “unfit for a family-friendly publication” that shows how in terms of median price to sales ratio, the S&P 500 is twice as expensive as it was in 2000.
“Overvaluation in 2000 was highly concentrated; today it is pervasive, with the median S&P 500 Price/Sales ratio of 2.63 times more than double the 1.23 times prevailing in February 2000.

In a follow-up post, he then reiterates how 2018 is starting to increasingly look like 2000.

“The statistical similarities between the two bulls are on the rise, and the wonderment surrounding the disruptive technology of today’s market leaders seems to have swelled to maybe 1998-ish levels,” he writes.

That upward trajectory of the market isn’t sustainable, he warns. Ramsey admits that history isn’t the best guide for the future but the S&P 500’s performance since it touched its peak on Jan. 26 is closely mirroring what happened 18 years ago.

“In the earlier case, a volatile five-month upswing that began in mid-April ultimately fell just a half-percent short of the March 24th high by early September. This year, a similarly choppy, six-month rebound has taken the S&P 500 to within 1% of its January 26th high,” Ramsey said.

(At this point, if you are still interested in this idea, I’m going to send you to the article as it first appeared. Here’s the link: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/behold-the-scariest-chart-for-the-stock-market-2018-08-08 )

7 Myths About Variable Annuities: Exposing Their Dark Side

My Comments: Anyone now retired or thinking about retirement spends time and energy coming to terms with how to manage their money.

Increasingly, fees charged by advisors and/or their companies are perceived as a threat somewhere along the way. However, unless you have the skills to do it all yourself, you are necessarily going to have to pay fees to gain the peace of mind you crave.

But there are fees and there are fees. My experience with variable annuities suggests they are generally excessive and you can gain the same positive outcome at a lower cost using a different approach.

These comments from Craig Kirsner are not definitive. But if you have variable annuities in your portfolio or are being encourage to buy one, I advise you to think again.

by Craig Kirsner, July 31, 2018

One of the most misunderstood investment strategies I’ve come across over the past 25 years is the variable annuity. When I audit existing variable annuities, I get the facts about them by calling the insurance company directly rather than the broker who sold them. Why? Because I believe you should trust but verify, and I like to get my information directly from the horse’s mouth.

When I call the insurance company, among other questions, I ask: What are all the fees? What is the risk? What are the features? After going through that drill numerous times, I’ve pretty much seen it all. Based on my experiences over the past 25 years, the following are the seven most common myths I’ve learned about variable annuities and the facts dispelling those myths:

Myth #1: A variable annuity is a suitable investment for a retiree

I typically work with high-net worth clients, but regardless of your means, your investing goals and strategies evolve as you grow older.

Early in life, you were probably happy to ride with the ebb and flow of the market, waiting and hoping to hit that investment “home run.” And why not? Suffering a loss now and then didn’t bother you because you were certain of a rebound, and you knew you had plenty of time to recover, long before retirement.

But years pass and investing approaches change. Entering retirement, most people start thinking about protecting and preserving what they have, not making a big splash in the market.
You may have heard it said that these days the return OF your principal is more important than the return ON your principal, and that is definitely true for most of our clients. That’s why the variable annuities some retirees count on for a regular income may not be the best route to take. Which brings us directly to Myth #2.

Myth #2: Your money is safe

People are often led to believe by their brokers that with variable annuities their money is safe, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Your money is invested in mutual funds with no real protection of your principal.

The name of the annuity pretty much sums it up: “Variable,” as in the principal varies, unlike a fixed annuity, where the principal is guaranteed by the insurance company.

Continue reading HERE: https://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T003-C032-S014-7-myths-about-variable-annuities.html

3 Myths About Your Social Security Filing Age

My Comments: Social Security benefit payments are critical for millions of Americans. When you apply and the amount of money you are entitled to is a decision fraught with uncertainty.

Since none of know how our life is going to play out, all we can do is develop an understanding of our choices so that we can at least make an informed decision, even if life ultimately throws us a curve ball. Just know that you are going to get about the same amount of money regardless of when you apply.

That’s because payments will end when you die. In the meantime, you can opt for a smaller check for a longer period of time or wait and get a larger check for a shorter period of time.

Know too that if you are the higher earner of the two, and you die first, then you are providing your survivor with more money per month if you wait. There is no real way to know the best answer.

July 30, 2018 by Jim Blankenship, CFP, EA

Figuring out when to claim your Social Security benefits is a tricky question, and people wrestling with the decision often rely on several widely followed rules of thumb. Unfortunately, doing that can potentially lead you astray, because these are generalities, not rules, and they aren’t as clear-cut as you might think.

Let’s take a long, hard look at three “facts” about Social Security filing age and the real math behind them. All three are only true to a point — and as you’re planning your Social Security filing age, you should understand the truth behind these three principles.

First, let’s look at the concept of delaying benefits.

1. You Should Always Delay Your Social Security Filing Age to 70

This one is the easiest to understand why it’s wrong — but the component of truth in it can be important, because it could work in your favor to delay. Of course, an absolute like this is going to be proven incorrect in some circumstances.

Most people know that if you start taking benefits early — as young as age 62 — your Social Security check will be lower than if you had waited until your full retirement age (FRA). And once you pass your FRA, your benefit grows each year beyond that until age 70, when it tops out. So, if you happen to be able to delay your Social Security filing age and you live a long time after age 70, over your lifetime you may receive more from Social Security than if you filed early. However, if you need the cash flow earlier due to lack of other sources of income or expect a shortened life span, filing early may be your only choice.

Filing earlier can provide income earlier, but depending on your circumstances you may be short-changing your family. When you file early, you are permanently reducing the amount of benefit that can be paid based on your earnings record. Your surviving spouse’s benefits will be tied to the amount that you receive when you file, and so if you delay to maximize your own benefit and your spouse survives you, you’re also maximizing the benefit available to him or her. This is assuming that your surviving spouse’s own benefit is something less than your own.

To see how this all works, consider this example. John, who is 62, will have a benefit of $1,500 available to him if he files for Social Security at age 66, his full retirement age. His wife, Sadie, will have a benefit of $500 available at her FRA. If John files at age 62, his benefit would be reduced permanently to $1,125 per month. When John dies, assuming Sadie is at least at FRA at the time, Sadie’s benefit would be stepped up to $1,237 (the minimum survivor benefit is 82.5% of the decedent’s FRA benefit amount).

On the other hand, if John could delay his benefit to age 68, he would receive $1,740 per month, because he would have accrued delayed retirement credits of 16%. Upon John’s death, Sadie would receive $1,740 in survivor benefits. By delaying his benefit six years, John would have improved his surviving spouse’s lot in life by over $500 per month. Of course, this would require him to come up with the funds to get by in life in the meantime, and so if he did have the funds available this would make a lot of sense. If he didn’t have other funds available, one thing that can help matters is if Sadie filed for her own benefit at age 62 — that would provide them with $375 per month while John delayed his benefits.

What to remember: The key here is that it’s often wise for the member of a couple who has the larger benefit to delay benefits for the longest period of time that they can afford, in order to increase the survivor benefit available to the surviving spouse. But it’s also often necessary to file earlier due to household cash flow shortages. As we’ll see a bit later, only the question of surviving benefits makes the idea of delaying benefits to age 70 a truism. Otherwise, it could be more beneficial to file earlier.

2. Increase Your Benefits by 8% Every Year You Delay Filing

This one again comes from a partial truth: For every year after FRA that you delay your Social Security filing, you will add 8% to your benefit. But the year-over-year benefit differences are not always 8%, and often the difference is much less.

It is true that if you compare the benefit you’d receive at age 66 to the benefit you’d receive at age 67, it will have increased by 8%. However, if you compare your age 67 benefit to your age 68 benefit, it will have increased by 7.41%. This age 68 benefit is 16% more than the age 66 benefit, but only 7.41% more than the age 67 benefit. This is because the benefit increase is based on your FRA benefit amount (age 66 in this example), not the amount you could have received at age 67.

What to remember: Don’t be distracted by the differing percentage changes over the years. The bottom line is, Social Security benefit amounts themselves do increase by approximately 8% per year overall every year you wait – but often the year-over-year percentage increase is less. An increase of 8% is an approximation, but in reality, your increase will often be less.

3. The Break-Even Point is 80 Years of Age

I’ve often quoted this as a generality — rarely pinning it down to a specific year but giving the range of around 80 years old. It’s not that simple, though, when you consider all the different ages that an individual can file. The break-even point is the age at which your lifetime payment amount would be equal, whether you claim Social Security early or late, and if you live beyond that, you would come out ahead by waiting. And if you don’t live to the break-even age, it’s better to claim earlier.

For example, when deciding between a Social Security filing age of 62 versus filing at age 63, your break-even point occurs at age 76 (when your FRA is age 66). But when deciding between age 63 and age 64 (with FRA at 66), the break-even occurs at age 78.

On the other end of the spectrum, when choosing between filing at age 69 versus filing at age 70 (FRA of 66), the break-even occurs at age 84 — considerably later than age 80. The break-even for the decision to file at age 68 versus age 69 occurs at age 82.

What to remember: The year-over-year break-even point varies, depending on which Social Security filing age you’re considering. If the two options are earlier (before FRA) the break-even point occurs before age 80. If they are both at or around FRA, then the break-even occurs right around age 80. But if the Social Security filing age you’re considering is near age 70, count on the break-even point being much later, as late as age 85.

Vanguard’s Chairman Sees Muted Decade for Stocks After Long Rally

My Comments: Little is said these days about those who are investing for the future and are still working vs those investing for the future who are no longer working. Think of it as being defined as the accumulation phase of your life vs the distribution phase of your life.

Different rules apply. Vanguard Funds founder John Bogle famously suggested that the bond part of your portfolio, presumably the ‘safe’ part, should be equal in percentage terms to your age. If you were 70, for example, 70% of your portfolio should be in bonds.

Demographics, interest rates, and the profusion of new financial products has largely put Bogle’s dictum to bed. But it does illustrate the continued confusion caused by those who fail to recognize the difference between someone in their 50’s working hard to accumulate a sufficient pile of money for retirement from someone in their 70’s trying to make sure they don’t run out of money before they run out of life.

We are currently conditioned to positive returns from the markets, except for 2015, that started as we emerged from the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Those of you in the distribution phase of your life need to heed the warning expressed here.

By Nico Grant | January 17, 2018

F. William McNabb, Vanguard Group’s chairman, cautioned investors to consider reducing their stock exposure before the nearly 9-year-old rally ends.

“We would expect the next decade to actually be very modest on the equities side in the U.S., a little less so in Europe and a little less so in Asia,” McNabb said in a Bloomberg Television interview that aired Thursday. “But it’s still overall lower than long-term historical averages.”

Stock markets reached a fever pitch in 2017 as the S&P 500 Index hit record highs and the rally has continued this year. The advance, buoyed by low interest rates around the world, economic growth and the U.S. tax overhaul, has sparked concerns that valuations have gotten stretched, spurring some investors to brace for a decline.

McNabb, whose firm oversees about $5 trillion, said long-term investors may benefit by holding balanced portfolios with bonds as well as stocks.

“No one can predict what’s going to happen in the next 12 months,” he said. “Having just said that, I’m sure the equity market will continue to skyrocket for the next few months.”

McNabb, who ceded the role of chief executive officer of the Valley Forge, Pennsylvania-based firm to Tim Buckley this month, spoke to Bloomberg in Beijing, where Vanguard is eager to take advantage of China’s opening to foreign financial-services companies. The country’s government said it plans to remove ownership limits on banks and allow overseas firms to take majority stakes in local ventures.

“With some of the changes, it looks like there may be a path to doing retail mutual funds, depending on how things get interpreted,” McNabb said.

China’s assets under management are poised to climb more than fivefold by 2030 as the world’s second-biggest economy grows, according to estimates from Casey Quirk by Deloitte.

Welcome, Immigrants. The U.S. Really Needs You

My Comments: For the past 18 months, there has been a war on immigration, fostered by Donald Trump and most Republicans. It portends an economic disaster for the US economy.

Yes, open borders will inevitably allow some bad people into the country. But it will also allow some really good people in as well, and we need them if we are going to leave a healthy economy for those that follow in our footsteps.

Keep in mind that virtually every population segment has bad apples. Whether you’re a physician, a CPA or an insurance salesmen, there are always going to be those whose ethical standards are compromised. Some would argue it also happens among politicians.

These words from Scott Minerd explain clearly why we need immigrants. Without them, we can kiss out ass goodby in terms of maintaining a healthy and growing economy going forward.

by Scott Minerd, Global CEO of Guggenheim Partners, July 30, 2018

Recessions usually occur because the economy hits constraints, causing prices to rise and leading the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates. Today the dominant constraint in the U.S. economy is the size of the labor pool. To sustain continued growth, increasing corporate profits, and rising living standards, while maintaining relative price stability, policymakers must approach labor differently. First among the priorities for achieving long-term prosperity is a rational immigration policy.

Labor shortages are already appearing in key parts of the economy, with about half of small businesses reporting few or no qualified applicants for job openings. For the first time since the government began tracking job openings in 2000, available jobs exceed available workers. This isn’t just among highly skilled workers. For instance, homebuilders report a shortage of workers, especially in areas like framing and drywall, which is crimping the supply of new housing and helping to drive up home prices, reducing affordability.

The growth rate of the American labor force is decelerating sharply. U.S. population growth has slowed, reflecting declining fertility rates and reduced net immigration inflows. The population also is aging. In 1960, 38.6 percent of the population was below 20, while 23.3 percent was 50 or older. Today 25.1 percent is under 20, and 35.3 percent is over 50. By 2040, just 23 percent of the population will be younger than 20, and 38.9 percent will be over 50. The domestic labor pool is projected to increase by an anemic 0.5 percent per year over the next 20 years, compared to growth rates of more than 2.5 percent in the 1970s.

How can the U.S. invest in building a strong labor force? Job training and education play an important role in enhancing worker productivity and output, and programs need to be designed to incentivize our aging baby boomers to remain in or return to the workforce. But one of the most important components is immigration.

Immigrants and their children have contributed more than half of the growth of the working-age population over the past two decades. These new arrivals aren’t just an untapped source of labor but add to America’s economic dynamism through high rates of entrepreneurialism and technological innovation. If the United States is to succeed in the 21st century and retain its global hegemony, then rational immigration and deportation policies are critical elements to its success. A dynamic policy that increases the pool of working immigrants could raise annual U.S. growth by one percentage point or more for decades to come.

This isn’t to suggest throwing open the borders. Border security could always be tighter. Instead, the situation requires a pragmatic, economically driven immigration approach that makes it easier for immigrants to come in legally, resolves the status of undocumented workers and Dreamers, and establishes appropriate policies and controls around future immigration.

Immigration policy must recognize that the demand for workers will fluctuate based on economic conditions, so it must be organized to be responsive to the needs of those industries or regions that demonstrate persistent labor shortages. In these instances, there should be employment-driven strategies and sponsorship programs that can match new immigrants with the economic activities and regions that need them.

We need workers across the skills spectrum, but the ability to select from the best and brightest, particularly from those already studying at U.S. universities, could enhance U.S. productivity growth, as well. Foreign students who attend American universities for undergraduate or graduate studies and have employers ready to sponsor them should automatically be granted multi-year employment-based visas after routine background checks. Highly skilled workers already qualify for H-1B visas, but there aren’t enough of them. In April, the demand for these visas was so strong that the Congressionally mandated application cap of 65,000 for the year was reached in just five days. This cap should be either significantly increased or eliminated.

Not only do we need to find ways to attract new immigrants. We must also work to avoid deportation for those undocumented resident immigrants who are law-abiding, contributing members of our economy. Rather than outright deportation, pathways can be established for undocumented workers to earn legal status, which would draw them out of the shadows and make them productive, tax-paying participants in our prosperity.

Let me be clear: Coming into this country illegally is a crime, and conditions for avoiding deportation and earning legal status should include a penalty. For example, workers who come to this country illegally, in exchange for receiving permanent legal status, should have to pay taxes and contribute to Social Security and Medicare, just like working citizens. However, they could be restricted from receiving many social benefits provided to taxpaying U.S. citizens, and shouldn’t be eligible for Social Security and Medicare benefits for a much longer period, perhaps until age 75.

When economically focused, rational immigration policy is combined with productivity gains from recent tax reform, efficiency gains from improved infrastructure, and native population growth, real growth in America could reach a sustained rate of 5 percent or more. This will ensure that the U.S. expansion continues, while averting the needless boom-bust cycles of expansion and recession. With smart and creative ideas to grow the U.S. workforce, the full effects of current economic policies could flourish uninterrupted for generations to come.

Source: https://www.guggenheiminvestments.com/perspectives/global-cio-outlook/us-economy-needs-more-immigrants

Social Security’s future

My Comments: Followers of my comments know that I’ve talked in the past about how to fix the projected ‘crisis’ of the Social Security system. I remember the last one, and in 1983 it was fixed. At least for the time being.

What happened then was the upper threshold of income subject to what we all think of as the FICA tax was raised. In other words, if your income was higher than the earlier threshold, you continued to contribute to the system. In addition, the percentage of that income, paid by both you and your employer was raised.

We can argue until the cows come home that all that does is create job losses, and there are those who will lose their jobs. But think back to the years since 1983 if you can, and tell me that the increase I referenced in the above paragraph caused any significant economic turmoil in these United States.

Now think about the economic turmoil that will happen if 50 million people suddenly lose 21% of their income. Talk about job losses if that much money suddenly stops flowing to grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations etc.

But given the nature of politics, the fix won’t happen until the crisis happens within the last election cycle of those we elect to Congress. It’s another reason to make sure as many people as possible are registered to vote. If you are likely to be affected in some way by the 20% drop in Social Security benefits, you need to pay attention.

Sean Williams, The Motley Fool Published 10:00 a.m. ET July 9, 2018

To be frank, Social Security is a financial foundation that millions of seniors simply couldn’t do without. According to the Social Security Administration, more than three out of every five aged beneficiaries lean on the program for at least half of their monthly income, with just over a third essentially reliant on the program for all of their income (90 percent or more).

Furthermore, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities finds that its mere existence keeps more than 22 million people, including 15.1 million seniors, above the federal poverty line. We’d probably be contending with a genuine elderly poverty crisis right now if not for the guaranteed monthly payout associated with Social Security to eligible beneficiaries.

Big changes are underway for America’s most important social program

But therein lies the rub: This guaranteed payout is in some serious trouble. While Social Security is in absolutely no danger of going bankrupt — which means current and future generations will receive a retired worker, disability, or survivor benefit, should they qualify — it is on the brink of a major transformation.

The latest annual report from the Social Security Board of Trustees finds that America’s most important social program will begin paying out more in benefits than it collects in revenue this year. In each year thereafter, with the exception of 2019, the net cash outflow from the Social Security is expected to increase. By 2034, the $2.9 trillion in excess cash that has been built up since the reforms of 1983 were passed are expected to be completely gone.

What happens then, you ask? Again, it doesn’t mean the program is bankrupt. But it does clearly demonstrate that the existing payout schedule isn’t sustainable. Assuming no additional revenue is generated above and beyond the intermediate-cost model projections from the Trustees report, an across-the-board cut in benefits of up to 21 percent may be necessary to sustain payouts (without any further cuts) until the year 2092.

Considering how dependent today’s senior citizens are on Social Security, the thought of a 21 percent reduction to benefits is frightening. As a reminder, the average retired worker is only receiving $1,412 a month, as of May 2018. This would push the average payout down to just $1,115 a month, using 2018 dollars. For added context, the federal poverty level for an individual on a monthly basis in 2018 is approximately $1,012.