Don’t Expect to Be Able to Live on Social Security Alone 

Don’t Expect to Be Able to Live on Social Security Alone 

Those payments won't stretch as far as you think.


Many Americans either rely on Social Security in retirement or expect to do so once they reach that age. But a recent piece offering advice says that those counting on Social Security shouldn’t expect to live on that program alone.

According to a piece in Motley Fool this week by Maurie Backman, future recipients of the program need to know that they may very well not be able to live on their benefits by themselves. She describes it, in fact, as “one of the most dangerous misconceptions you can buy into.” 


“You can expect your benefits to replace about forty percent of your wages if you're an average earner. And that assumes that benefits don't get cut in the future, which may happen. If it does, Social Security will provide even less replacement income,” Backman writes. 

“There's no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to replacement income. You'll often hear that seniors need seventy percent to eighty percent of their former paychecks to live comfortably, but the reality is that some retirees can get by on less, while others may end up needing a lot more.”

Backman also lets seniors who are ready to retire know that they should look at their paycheck right now and slash it by sixty percent. 

“See what that amounts to and figure out if you can cover your bills in any sort of reasonable fashion based on that extreme a pay cut. If you can't, you'll need to ensure that you have an income source in retirement outside of Social Security.” 

There are many ways for people to make up that money, whether it’s a retirement plan, investment income, or even continuing to work. Both 401(k) and IRA plans are recommended for those looking to retire soon. 

“For a program as complex as Social Security, there's bound to be a lot of false information out there. But if there's one myth you can't afford to believe, it's that you'll do just fine if you retire with Social Security being your only source of income,” Backman writes. “Even if you're willing to live a frugal lifestyle, you may find yourself struggling if you only have your benefits to rely on, so you're better off not putting yourself in that position.”

Backman also looks at another myth, that Social Security will run out of money at a certain time. While the Social Security Trust Fund is set to become “depleted” in 2032, per the Congressional Budget Office, it’s likely the government will find a way before then to either replenish the fund or find another way to meet obligations to those due to collect Social Security. 

 Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters