Next president should prioritize Social Security, Americans say

By Courtney L. Vien

Keeping Social Security solvent should be one of the next U.S. president’s top economic priorities, nearly two-thirds of Americans said in a recent AICPA survey. Sixty-four percent of respondents said ensuring that Social Security won’t run out of money should be among the next president’s priorities—a higher percentage than chose reducing the federal deficit (44%), decreasing unemployment (38%), or reducing taxes (36%).

What’s more, keeping Social Security afloat was rated a top priority by the largest percentage of respondents of all age groups and income brackets, a testament to the broad support the program enjoys.

“Our survey clearly demonstrates that people feel strongly about the solvency of Social Security and the potential impact on their own retirement security,” said Gregory Anton, CPA, CGMA, chair of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. 

The survey was conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the AICPA. It polled 1,005 U.S. adults in March.

Older Americans were more likely than younger ones to choose Social Security as an issue the next president should focus on. Almost three-quarters (74%) of respondents over age 65 named Social Security as a top-of-mind issue for the next president, versus 66% of both 45-to-54-year-olds and 35-to-44-year-olds. Even a slight majority of younger respondents (53% of 18-to-34-year-olds) said Social Security should be a top priority.

Respondents also frequently chose decreasing the international trade deficit (25%) and keeping interest rates low (22%) as economic issues the next president should address.

Forty-four percent of respondents said they did not expect the outcome of the 2016 election to change their economic picture. Twenty-one percent said the election results would improve their financial well-being, while 19% said the election results would weaken it. Fifteen percent said they didn’t know how the election would affect their finances.

“While the outcomes of elections have the potential to impact Americans’ economic situation, people need to understand that they themselves have the ability to make positive changes in their financial behavior,” said Anton. He recommended that people interested in improving their financial situation visit the AICPA’s 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy website. The site hosts resources such as Social Security calculators that can help people determine what their benefits will be in retirement and how their retirement income will be affected if they lose their benefits.

The AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission suggests that Americans who want to improve their chances for a comfortable retirement wait until full retirement age to take their Social Security benefits, investigate options such as employer-sponsored retirement plans and Roth IRAs, and consider working part time during retirement.  

Courtney L. Vien (cvien@aicpa.org) is an associate editor for the AICPA.

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