Will Millennials and Gen Z see Social Security? An in-depth look

Keep your eyes open and make smart money moves, whether you're in your teens, twenties, or thirties. Your future self will thank you for them.

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Social Security payments are one way in which retirees can protect themselves financially after they retire from their jobs. With the way the economy looks right now, some people are worried that there won’t be enough Social Security to go around by the time they retire.

The current line of thinking is that Social Security will run out by 2035 – when the youngest Millennials will only be around 40. Can Social Security just disappear if a generation benefitting from it is too large? It may be helpful to look at how Social Security operates with the current eligible generations.

How to define a generation

Generations are typically defined by the years in which they are born. A generation is a cohort of people who were all born within the same 15-year period, though some dates are up for debate. For example, many people consider the last year Millennials can be born as 1995, while others say it has to be 1999, as Gen Z is defined by growing up at the turn of the century.

Even some members of the same generation have nothing in common and would not have had the same childhood experience. A generation is just a way to keep track of births within a specific period. They may have a few big things in common based on the time they grew up, but it’s not uncommon for younger Millennials to identify with parts of Gen Z culture and vice versa.

Over 50% of the current population is made up of Millennials and Gen Z. Since they’re such a significant portion of the population, it’s understandable to worry that there might not be enough Social Security to go around once they reach retirement age.

Still, as long as generations keep growing enough to replace the ones that came before, Social Security will be around, and you’ll still be protected through other means. Before counting Social Security out altogether, you must know exactly how the payments are made and how the money is raised to support those who have reached retirement age.

What exactly is Social Security?

Social Security is made up of two trusts that Americans pay taxes into. Retired individuals then get payments as applicable through one or both of the trusts, which ends up being the Social Security payment that most senior citizens receive.

That said, a retiree’s Social Security checks will be higher if they had a higher-paying job before they retired. Those with lower incomes will receive a greater percentage of their former paycheck back, but all in all, a monthly check can’t go beyond $3,895.

Though there is a cap on just how much people can receive each month, some senior citizens only receive a few hundred dollars per month – which isn’t exactly sustainable for many people.

In addition to Social Security, some people receive pensions from their former workplace. Pensions are entirely up to your employer to manage based on the years you worked at one job, so it’s an excellent way to guarantee payment if you don’t think Social Security will cut it once you retire.

Also, you don’t have to stop working to draw on Social Security. Once you’ve hit retirement age, you’ve earned your right to it.

When should younger generations worry?

Because the Baby Boomers have reached retirement age, people worry that more people are receiving Social Security benefits than there are paying into them. The good news is that Social Security will not completely run out as long as Americans are paying taxes.

According to the AARP, because older generations are living longer, the Social Security payments may deplete the surplus reserves that had built up over the years – likely due to the Baby Boomer generation still in the workforce – but it will still pay around 78% of the benefits to those who receive Social Security checks.

If that causes you to worry, it’s time to start putting money away for your own retirement fund that you can draw from if Social Security won’t be enough to supplement you. With a 401(k), you can take a non-taxable part of your paycheck and add it directly into an investment opportunity – one of the best ones being your retirement fund.

Stay positive. Even if you have a grim outlook on the future of Social Security, know that there are ways to protect yourself and stay afloat after you retire.

Be smart with your investments

In short, though Social Security may be affected by the time Millennials and Gen Z choose to retire, it will not be going away completely. If you’re worried about the payments you receive leaving you with less than you want, take measures now to save for your retirement.

As of right now, you can expect to receive Social Security checks when you, a member of the Millennial or Gen Z generation, retire. Keep your eyes open and make smart money moves, whether you’re in your teens, twenties, or thirties. Your future self will thank you for them.

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