Americans of all ages plan to rely on Social Security



With the 75th anniversary of Social Security approaching, AARP released a new survey report that shows that three in four (75 percent) adults age 18+ rely on or plan to rely on Social Security for their retirement income, including a large majority (62 percent) of younger adults age 18-29.  The survey also showed a strong majority of those polled oppose reducing Social Security benefits for deficit reduction (85 percent), and support the infusion of additional revenues into the system to provide the same level of benefits in the future (57 percent).

Changes to Program Should Strengthen for Long Term, Not Reduce Deficit

The AARP survey found that regardless of age, 85 percent of adults oppose cutting Social Security to reduce the federal deficit, with more than seven out of ten (72 percent) strongly opposing it.

However, many support other changes to keep the program strong for future retirees. Over three-quarters (77 percent) of non-retired adults are worried that they may not have enough money to live on in retirement. To that end, 50 percent of non-retired adults are willing to pay more now in payroll taxes to ensure Social Security will be there for them when they retire, a finding that has remained consistent over time. Over half (57 percent) of adults under age 50 would prefer to pay more into Social Security so they can get the same level of benefits provided today as opposed to keeping payroll tax rates at current levels in exchange for lower benefits.

Eight in ten Americans 18+ (81 percent) believe the government made a commitment to Americans about Social Security being there for them when they retire, and that the government cannot break its promise.  In addition, over eight in ten Americans (83 percent) agree that regardless of income, everyone who pays into Social Security should receive it, a finding that has not changed over time.

“The message from people of all ages to Washington is clear – don’t erode the one bedrock of retirement security that unites all Americans,” said AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond. “Americans see Social Security as a benefit they’ve earned over a lifetime of hard work, and they oppose it being used to reduce the deficit.”

Lack of Confidence Does not Diminish Support, Including Among Younger Adults

Although confidence in the future of Social Security has consistently been low over the last 25 years, Americans of all ages strongly support the program. Consistent with previous surveys, a strong majority (63 percent) believe Social Security is one of the very most important programs in this country, with nine out of ten (90 percent) younger adults age 18-29 saying that Social Security is an important government program. Among non-retirees who are not confident about the future of Social Security, 84 percent agree with the statement that “Maybe I won’t need Social Security when I retire, but I definitely want to know it’s there just in case I do.”

In addition, the public’s lower level of confidence in the future of Social Security can be partially explained by the lack of awareness about solvency. Only one in five (21 percent) Americans knew that if the Social Security trust fund is exhausted in 2037, Social Security could still pay reduced benefits.

“Americans overwhelmingly understand that Social Security has literally been a lifeline to millions of friends, family members and neighbors for 75 years,” added LeaMond. “More importantly, they want to make sure it will still be there for future generations. Younger Americans, although worried about whether Social Security will be there for them, value the program with unquestionable support, and want to know that they can rely on the benefits when they retire.”

Social Security Provides Financial Security for Families

The AARP survey found widespread understanding and support for Social Security as an important resource for families and their loved ones.

Americans overwhelmingly support Social Security’s protections for people who are disabled and for children and widowed spouses of deceased workers (91 percent). Almost two-thirds of Americans 18+ (65 percent) say that their family would be hard hit if Social Security were cut, including 72 percent of adults whose household annual income is less than $50,000.  Eighty percent of Americans appreciate that Social Security alleviates the financial burden of taking care of parents and 88 percent of non-retired adults believe Social Security helps older Americans remain independent.

With increased attention on Social Security’s future, the survey assessed Americans’ attitudes toward key features of the program. Across all ages, nearly eight in ten (79 percent) Americans surveyed agree that Social Security should continue to provide guaranteed benefits while few (19 percent) think that it should be more like an investment account, subject to risk of possible losses. Half of Americans believe that Social Security payments for retirees are too low.

“We are celebrating Social Security’s 75 years of success in reliably helping millions of people age with dignity, confidence and independence,” said LeaMond. “We encourage leaders in Washington to reassure all Americans – in words and in actions – that Social Security will be strengthened, not treated as a piggy bank for deficit reduction, so that we can celebrate again 75 years from now.”

During the August Congressional recess, AARP is engaging Americans of all ages in activities around the country to demonstrate to lawmakers the importance of Social Security. The organization is going to state fairs, holding community conversations, and collecting petitions that ask the President and Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle not to cut Social Security benefits for deficit reduction and to keep Social Security strong.  AARP has already collected 1.5 million petitions over the past few months. To download a copy of the survey, go to

AARP commissioned GfK Roper, a national survey research firm, to conduct a national random digit dial (RDD) telephone survey of 1,200 adults aged 18 or older. A total of 781 respondents were not retired and 419 were retired. Interviews were conducted from July 15th to 27th, 2010. The results from the study were weighted by age, sex, race, region, and education. The margin of sampling error is approximately +/- 3 percent.