Seniors & Social Security
"To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations. We must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market."
Many seniors are struggling in the face of the economic downturn, having seen their savings fall, and we acted quickly to help provide relief. The Recovery Act provided a one-time payment of $250 to retirees, other Social Security beneficiaries, disabled veterans, and SSI recipients. Fifty-six million retirees and other individuals received this one-time payment, totaling $14 billion. In light of continued economic hardship for too many seniors, the President has called for Congress to enact another $250 Economic Recovery Payment to our seniors this year, as well as to veterans and people with disabilities.
Protecting & Strengthening Social Security
President Obama believes that all seniors should be able to retire with dignity, not just a privileged few. And, he believes that all Americans deserve to know that, if they become disabled or if they lose the breadwinner in the family, Social Security will be there to protect them. Today, nearly 54 million Americans receive Social Security benefits, including 38 million retirees and their family members, 10 million Americans with disabilities and their dependents, and 6 million survivors of deceased workers.
For many of these Americans, Social Security is a key source of income. In fact, for more than half of Social Security recipients aged 65 or over, the program provides over 50 percent of their family income and, because of its lifetime income protection and survivors benefits, Social Security is particularly important for elderly women. . Moreover, the program is not just for seniors. Because of features like survivors benefits, Social Security is one of the largest antipoverty programs for children, and disability benefits also help younger workers and their families and are particularly important to minority communities.
The President is committed to protecting and strengthening Social Security—and securing the basic compact that hard work should be rewarded with dignity at retirement or in case of disability or early death. That’s why he has called on Congress to work on a bipartisan basis to preserve Social Security as a reliable source of income for American seniors and as a program that provides robust benefits to survivors and workers who develop disabilities. He believes that no current beneficiaries should see their basic benefits reduced and he will not accept an approach that slashes benefits for future generations. The President also stands firmly opposed to privatization and rejects the notion that the future of hard-working Americans should be left to the fluctuations of financial markets.
In addition to protecting and strengthening Social Security, President Obama will make it easier for Americans to save on their own for retirement and prepare for unforeseen expenses. Currently over 75 million working Americans—about half the workforce—lack access to retirement plans through their employers. The President’s budget lays the foundation for all Americans to participate in retirement accounts at work, proposing simple rules and automatic enrollment—that will automatically enroll workers in IRAs who, until now, haven’t had a workplace retirement plan, while allowing them to opt out if they wish.
This should dramatically increase savings participation rates. In 401(k) plans, automatic enrollment has tended to increase participation rates to more than nine out of ten eligible employees. In contrast, for workers who lack access to a retirement plan at their workplace, the current IRA participation rate tends to be less than one out of ten.