AARP fighting to protect and save Social Security

Mike Festa of AARP Massachusetts discusses the importance of the Social Security Act.
Mike Festa

By Mike Festa, State Director, AARP Massachusetts 

It’s another big birthday for Social Security. This month marks 88 years of the program. The Social Security Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt on August 14, 1935. 

AARP has been fighting for 60 years — and will continue to lead the charge — to protect and save Social Security for current and future generations. 

Social Security was created in the aftermath of the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression. It is based on the concept of social insurance: that individuals contribute to a central fund managed by the government, and this fund is then used to provide income to individuals when they retire or can no longer work.

Social Security is your money—you earned it through a lifetime of hard work. And for most people, it is essential for helping to cover daily living expenses and pay bills.

Social Security is funded by almost all of us. Current workers and their employers pay into Social Security through payroll deductions. The payroll deduction is a part of your FICA tax. Employers and workers each pay a tax of 7.65% — 6.2% is for Social Security and 1.45% is for Medicare. 

In order to qualify for Social Security, you or your spouse must have worked generally for at least 10 years and paid Social Security taxes. Annual payments will be larger the longer you wait to start collecting your benefits. You can begin receiving retirement benefits at age 62, but it will cost you. If you claim Social Security at age 62, you’ll get 70% of the benefit amount calculated from your lifetime earnings. If you wait until full retirement age—in this case, 67—you’ll get 100%. If you delay taking your benefit past the full retirement age of 67, Social Security increases your benefit 8% a year until you hit 70. There’s no financial incentive to delay past age 70.  

While many believe Social Security is going broke, Social Security will not run out of money, as long as workers and employers continue to pay payroll taxes. It’s a pay-as-you-go system: Revenue coming in from payroll taxes largely covers the payments going out. 

Social Security does face longer-term funding challenges. For decades it collected more than it paid out, building a surplus that stood at $2.83 trillion at the end of 2022. But the system is starting to pay out more than it takes in, largely because the retiree population is growing faster than the working population and is living longer. 

Without changes in how Social Security is financed, the surplus is projected to run out in 2034, according to the latest annual report from the program’s trustees. Even then, Social Security will still be able to pay benefits from incoming payroll tax revenue. But it will only be enough to pay about 80% percent of scheduled benefits, according to the latest estimate. If Congress doesn’t take action in the next 10 years to protect and save Social Security, your Social Security could be cut by 20%—an average of $4,000 a year. The last time Congress took major action to shore up Social Security’s nearly depleted reserves was 1983. 

AARP will keep fighting to ensure hard-working Americans who pay into Social Security get the money they’ve earned. We’ll need your help as well. If you’d like to join us in this fight, send us an email to



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