What would you do if Social Security ran out?

Social Security in a $45 billion hole in 2011

Social Security's finances are getting worse as the economy struggles to recover and millions of baby boomers stand at the brink of retirement.

The recession has already cost the country millions of jobs and billions of dollars. Now, according to one local economist, it may also be costing people their retirement.

In Tuesday's State of the Union, President Obama delivered a clear message on shoring up Social Security.

"We must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations," said Obama.

But new numbers from the Congressional Budget Office indicate that Social Security owes current retirees $45 billion more than it will collect in 2011â" and that the fund itself could be wiped out by 2037.

Darton College Economics Professor Aaron Johnson says the Social Security deficit is a direct result of a slow economy. "The problem is with people out of work and unemployment rates doubling from what it was before the recession, there are less payroll taxes that are getting paid in," said Johnson.

Now, many are wondering if Social Security will be there at all when it's their turn to retire.

"Maybe in the next ten years, it will run out because the way things are going now, we don't stand a chance," said Victoria Burrell.

"I don't really think that it's gonna' be there â" any money for us when we get older," said Keith Adams.

"Social Security may be there but with the economy, it seems like things are seeming more questionable now," added Emily Aquadro.

Whether or not Social Security manages to survive, Johnson says the future of retirement will depend on a change in the public's spending habits. "We need to learn how to live within our means regardless of whether you're making $10,000, $40,000," said Johnson. "We have to change our mindset and place a greater priority on paying ourselves rather than paying our creditors."

Darton College itself offers a course in money management but it's not mandatory. Johnson believes students should be taught early on how to save money, how to protect their credit rating, and most importantly, how to avoid the pitfalls of credit cards.

"Once we can do that, then we don't have to depend on Social Security," said Johnson.

In order to sustain Social Security, experts say the country may have to consider raising the retirement age, means testing benefits, and even instituting some form of a nationwide consumption tax.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off