The Social Security Trust Fund Will Reach Zero in 2035

The Social Security Trustees announced today that they expect the Social Security trust fund to reach exhaustion in 2035, a year better than they predicted last year. Here are their predictions for every year since the program was overhauled in 1984:

As you can see, everyone was pretty optimistic after the 1984 reform, but reality set in quickly and then a recession in 1991 made things even worse. By the mid-90s, the trustees were predicting trust fund exhaustion by 2030.

But then we had the dotcom boom followed by the housing boom and predictions got rosier. But then we had the Great Recession and predictions once again got gloomier. Finally, we split the difference during the long, modest expansion of the Obama years. That brings us to the present, and at this point it looks like the trust fund really will run out of money around 2033-35

So what happens then? One of two things. If Congress does nothing, everyone’s Social Security check suddenly gets cut by 25 percent. But if Congress decides to fix things—which seems likely given the political suicide of impoverishing millions of seniors—then taxes go up and Social Security payments stay about the same as scheduled. If we do this now, the tax increase could be done slowly over time. If we wait until 2035, it will probably have to happen pretty quickly. Realistically, those are our only choices.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate