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Will Your Retirement Funds Be There?

By Ken Poland
Opinion | January 30, 2011

social-security-lock-box.jpgCOLBY, Kan. - We can't trust our luck. The attacks that have been waged against the Social Security program, from its conception, have been relentless. We read daily the charges that Social Security: was bad from the beginning; has ruined the economy; has made welfare a way of life for the elderly; is plunging us deeper and deeper into debt. We have been lucky that the system has survived the distortions that have gone unchallenged, for the most part. It is time we challenge those distortions before the lies have been told so many times that people begin to think they are the truth. Don't trust your congressman to protect the Social Security System without hearing from you.

Trust. What does that word mean? If you have a good thesaurus, you might be surprised at all the synonyms and associations or combinations of words that imply trust. For the purpose of this article, I choose to use the following definition; something (as property) held by one party (the trustee) for the benefit of another (the beneficiary).

senior-citizen-walking.jpgA program established as a part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal," the Social Security (SS) system was designed and put into place. The justification for a retirement and disability program was the total collapse of savings accounts and investment values.

Why was this program going to be any more secure and available when workers or contributors became disabled or reached retirement age?

The idea was that it would be held 'In Trust' by the federal government (trustee) and distributed to the people (beneficiary) entitled to the benefits, as prescribed by the program.

Banks had gone bankrupt and savings accounts disappeared. Businesses had gone bankrupt and owners lost all their equity. Corporations had gone bankrupt and stockholders lost their total investment portfolios. This had left the majority of the elderly population at the mercy of charity and most folks who still had any assets or money didn't think they could share it without jeopardizing their own security.

The program was bitterly opposed by some. Many feared it was communistic socialism and government intrusion on their privacy and freedoms. Some thought it was a ponzi scheme that would collapse before they had opportunity to collect their benefits. That thinking was very much evident, 60 years ago, when I first earned wages subject to the system. The Ponzi scheme fear has persisted, even to this day.

Well, what do you know? We have just experienced the worst depression, since the 1930s and the SS fund is not bankrupt and those who qualify for benefits are still getting those benefits. Mismanaged private and company managed retirement plans have resulted in default of benefit payments. Dividends on stocks and interest on savings accounts have disappeared. The older segment of the population suffers the most. They have limited time and opportunity to replace their retirement funds.

The SS system has been self funded from taxes levied on employers and employees. There has been no money taken from the general fund (income tax) of the United States budget . The SS system has not contributed to the deficit spending and resulting huge debt of our Nation. The labeling of SS benefits as entitlements that are wrecking our National budget is an outright misrepresentation of facts. You are entitled to your opinion based on philosophical principles, but blaming the deficits and national debt on SS is not legitimate.

If the trustee (National Government) accepts its fiduciary responsibility, the SS Trust Fund will be viable for as long as our nation remains viable.

Reducing or eliminating benefit payments will not stimulate the economy! The majority of those receiving SS payments spend the entire amount on their daily living requirements. Taking that money away from them will certainly not increase their purchase of goods and services.


I totally agree with you Ken. I'm in my 40's and when I talk to people my age they respond how they will never be able to retire.

Some things I'd like to add:
1. The added cost of children living with and being supported by there parents well into there 30's now.
2. The high debt people have.

I'm lucky as I've saved well and work for a company with a good 401k and pension program but most people my age do not. They try to save and invest but the recession and the cost of living anyways makes that so difficult.

No, the future does not look good.

Ken, you are right on. Social Security is perhaps one of the best ideas of the 21st Century, and takes care of itself. Social Security is much more reliable than a 401-K or a pension. I know that my money will be there when I retire.

As you say, the facts speak for themselves!

Social security, even if you get your full amount, would barely keep an elderly person above the poverty line. So depending upon SS for retirement means looking forward to your golden years sitting in front of the tv because you can afford little else.

No, you need to be smart about your retirement. When one retires to enjoy a comparable lifestyle they still need about 80% of their working income and SS will not be enough.

To have a good retirement one must do 2 things; cut expenses and have a source of income. On expenses, get rid of debt. I cannot believe the number of elderly who retire with $10k of credit card debt but it happens. Plus they are paying off expensive mortgages, cars, rv's and such. Some still have junior living with them.

On income, yes SS is helpful but its maybe at most 50% of your last salary so you need other income. My family has always been smart about investing in not only the stock and bond market, but making good investments in income producing real estate. Now even though they started out dirt poor during the depression, they are doing quite well in retirement. Sure I wish as kids we could have taken better vacations and had more toys but I'm thankful now for their frugality. My wifes parents were the same and now they are spending their retirement traveling and playing golf.

As for me I'm in my 40's and since the government has been quietly snitching SS funds from the cookie jar for years to cover debt, I might not live to see it. Oh wait, I might but the jerks keep raising the eligibility age where as soon I'll need to be 67 or maybe 70 to get SS when my grandpa got it at age 55 and lived 32 years on it.

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