tunate because as long as Congress continues with the status quo, the more likely it will be that social security will become bankrupt. One of the action steps Congress has taken has been to increase the age at which workers can receive full benefits from 65 years to 67 years. For example, if you were to take early retirement now, retiring at age 62, you would receive about 80 percent of your full retirement bene- fit (what you would have received if you had waited until you were 65). However, once the age increase fully takes effect, if you were to take early retirement, you would only receive about 70 percent of your full retirement benefit. Other ideas to fix the program that have been discussed include raising the social security tax, raising the maximum wage base for the tax, privatizing the system, and raising the retirement age. Of course, all of this is subject to change.
Currently, social security is taking in more money annually than it is paying out. All the excess funds are put into social security’s trust funds, which have about $900 billion right now. Those assets are expected to grow to more than $6 trillion over the next 25 years. However, benefit payments will begin to exceed incoming taxes by the year 2015, and the trust funds will be exhausted by 2037. (See Figure 13.32). If no changes are made to the system, Social Security will only be able to pay out about 72 percent of the benefits owed based on incoming tax money.3
Who Benefits from Social Security? As a blanket generalization, we can say that if you have held a job, you can receive some type of social security benefits. Of course, there are other types of stipulations that apply. But for the most part, any gainfully employed worker can be covered by social security. In order to qualify for benefits, a worker must earn credits. The number of credits needed depends on when the worker was born. If you were born in 1929 or later, you need 40 credits to receive benefits. If you were born before 1929, you need fewer than 40 credits (39 credits if you were born in 1928, 38 credits for those born in 1927, etc.). Gen- erally, you earn 4 credits per year. Therefore, the majority of people