Social Security Doesn't Even Cover Half of Retirement—Are You Ready to Pay the Rest?

July 30, 2021

Key Point: In recent years, Social Security benefits, which were largely designed to supplement company pensions and retirement savings, are being relied on more heavily than ever to fund a comfortable retirement for millions of Americans.

However, do keep in mind that for an average Social Security beneficiary, the monthly payments will replace only about forty percent of one’s past earned income. With this in mind, these individuals need to find a way to make up that other sixty percent if they want to keep a similar lifestyle.

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), approximately twenty percent of married couples and forty percent of singles receive at least ninety percent of their income from the Social Security program.

In an effort to help elderly Americans stay on track to achieve a comfortable retirement, the Motley Fool, a private financial and investing advice company, recently offered this advice.

Allot More Cash Into IRA or 401(k)

If an individual can pump more money into a retirement savings plan, “the easier it’ll be to make up for Social Security’s limited buying power,” it notes.

Currently, Americans can contribute up to $19,500 annually into a 401(k) plan if they are under the age of fifty. For those over fifty, they can put in $26,000 a year. As for an IRA, one can contribute $6,000 a year if under fifty and up to $7,000 a year if over fifty.

“One thing you should aim to do is boost your savings rate—if not immediately, then over time. One strategy you can employ is to bank your raises for retirement since that's money you’re not used to living on anyway,” it writes.

Save In an HSA

Increasing healthcare costs often hurt seniors’ financial well-being more than any other factor—and more often than not, Social Security benefits won’t nearly be enough to cover such bills.

“A good way to compensate is to contribute to a health savings account, or HSA, while you're working,” it writes. “HSA funds can be carried into retirement and withdrawn tax-free to pay for healthcare expenses like Medicare premiums, deductibles, and co-pays.”

Delay Filing for Social Security

“Social Security may only pay you enough to replace forty percent of your former paycheck if you sign up for benefits at full retirement age,” it writes.

Against this backdrop, take note that for individuals at full retirement age—currently sixty-six and two months (full retirement age will gradually rise to sixty-seven over the next several years)—the maximum benefit amount is $3,113. But be aware that if one can wait till age seventy to file, they would be eligible for the absolute maximum benefits, which currently stands at $3,895.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Image: Reuters.