Is Social Security a Ticking Time Bomb?

Will Bowron doesn’t think much about retirement. The 32-year-old from Birmingham, Alabama, is preoccupied with his job at his family’s coffee and tea roaster, his wife and small child, and a side career as a mystery fiction writer. But when he does start thinking about his future, Bowron doesn’t see Social Security as a factor. He’s heard that the program’s $2.8 trillion retirement trust fund would run out in 2034, decades before he wants to retire. The arithmetic doesn’t add up, says Bowron.

Right now, all this money that everyone is paying is going to the baby boomers, who are spending it to enjoy their life, which is good, says Bowron, whose debut novel, Vigilant, was released earlier this year. 

Bowron is like millions of other Americans, especially millennials, who believe Social Security will barely cover a portion of their retirement requirements. According to a 2024 Nationwide Retirement Institute study, over half of millennials (those aged 26 to 41) agreed with the statement that they wouldn’t get a dime from Social Security, compared to 30% of Gen Xers and 15% of baby boomers.

And, given the population’s growing aging, their pessimism is understandable: For many decades, more than three workers paid FICA taxes for each recipient, but that ratio has plummeted to 2.8 and is anticipated to decrease to 2.3 by 2035.

Still, younger employees who anticipate the Great Depression-era pension system to be utterly extinct by retirement are probably exaggerating the situation. While Social Security trustees predict that the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund will run out of money in 12 years—the program paid out more than it brought in for the first-time last year—the program is facing insolvency rather than bankruptcy. According to the most current Social Security trustees report, payments would be lowered by 23% unless Congress acts before that date, with payroll taxes continuing to support the remaining 77% of scheduled benefits.

According to a Congressional Research Service assessment, if no more steps are made to raise revenue or reduce benefits, that cut will increase to 26% by 2095. It’s worth mentioning that Social Security has two trust funds: one that pays retirement payments and a much smaller one that provides disability benefits. However, they’re sometimes referred to as the same thing, and this article concentrates on the bigger Old Age and Survivors Insurance Trust.


According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, that loss may be disastrous for the nearly one-quarter of recipients who rely on Social Security for at least 90% of their income. It would cause some degree of hardship for all but the wealthiest. While Congress is expected to intervene before such a scenario occurs, the program is still facing significant issues, and retirees should ready themselves for some benefit reduction, increased taxes, or other adjustments for the first time in 40 years.

Kilolo Kijakazi, the interim commissioner of the Social Security Administration, issued the following statement: It is critical to enhance Social Security for future generations, she added, noting that the program will impact 66 million people this year. The trustees propose that lawmakers address the predicted trust-fund deficiencies as soon as possible to progressively phase in essential modifications.

Taking Care of the Shortage

So, what will happen—and when will it happen? That is the $2.8 trillion conundrum. While the executive office can encourage lawmakers to act, it is ultimately up to the legislative branch to approve legislation to strengthen the program.