Can you afford to lose 25 percent of your Social Security?



While the race for the White House dominates this fall’s news, new findings about Social Security should concern Montana workers who are paying into Social Security today.

We have long known that Social Security is headed for a fiscal cliff unless our political leaders take action to make the program financially sound. But an analysis by AARP makes clear just how damaging the cuts would be for residents of Montana and all future retirees.

Here is a glimpse of what a 25 percent cutback would mean to future retirees in our state:

· The average annual family income of Montana retirees would plunge by $4,300. For many state residents, losses would be much higher.

· The poverty rate of older Montanans would skyrocket 85 percent. Some 10,200 additional Montana seniors would be pushed into poverty.

In June, the Social Security Trustees reported that beginning in 2034, Social Security benefits will be cut automatically because of insufficient funds. Over time, across-the-board cuts of nearly 25 percent will take effect, unless our leaders act to prevent that from happening.

To put a cutback of that size in perspective, consider that older Montanans typically spend $6,500 a year on groceries, $4,400 a year on utilities, and $7,000 on health care. A Social Security cut of nearly 25 percent would force households to make painful choices about what to buy and what to do without – at a time when the cost of necessities like food and prescription drugs continues to rise.

More than 203,000 Montanans receive Social Security benefits – which means that virtually every community in our state would be affected. While most of our Social Security beneficiaries are retirees, the money goes to people of all ages. As of 2012, 13,740 Social Security recipients were children. Widows, workers with disabilities and their dependent family members were among the others.

I realize that 2034 may seem far-off to some people, but kicking the can down the road – as Washington is famous for – is not an option. 

That is why AARP launched Take A Stand – a national campaign to urge the presidential candidates to show leadership on Social Security. Thousands of Take A Stand volunteers have shown up at events around the country to tell the candidates sound bites aren’t good enough.

Voters deserve to know what the candidates have in mind to keep Social Security strong for future generations, and how they and their families would be affected by any changes.

Our political leaders must truly engage in this issue and give the public real answers about their plans. The next president will have to step up and make tough decisions to ensure that workers get the benefits they have earned.

AARP’s new numbers about the impact that a 25 percent cutback would have in our state make it clear that we need a much more detailed public debate. This is vital for younger workers, our children and our grandchildren.

Just like today’s retirees, they too will depend on Social Security one day.


Tim Summers is the AARP Montana State Director.



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