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.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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