Here is a glimpse of what a 25 percent cutback would mean to future retirees in our state.

▪ The average annual family income of Kansas retirees would plunge by $4,500. For many state residents, losses would be much higher.

▪ The poverty rate of older Kansans would skyrocket 51 percent. Some 15,000 additional seniors over age 65 would be pushed into poverty.

▪ Kansans of all income levels would take a hit. Retirees with higher earnings would face annual benefit cuts of up to $10,000.

In June, the Social Security Trustees reported that the trust fund would run dry in 2034, the same as last year’s forecast. At that time, across-the-board cuts of nearly 25 percent would take effect, unless our leaders act to prevent that from happening.

To put a cutback of that size in perspective, consider that older Kansans typically spend $6,900 a year on groceries, $4,700 a year on utilities, and $7,400 on health care. A Social Security cut of nearly 25 percent would force households to make painful choices about what to buy and what to do without – at a time when the cost of necessities like food and prescription drugs continues to rise.

The year 2034 may seem far off to some people, but the sooner our leaders can agree on ways to secure the future of this essential program, the more gradual and moderate any measures can be.

That is why AARP launched Take a Stand, a national campaign to urge the presidential candidates to show leadership on Social Security. Thousands of Take a Stand volunteers have attended campaign events in Kansas and across the country to tell the candidates soundbites aren’t enough.

America celebrated Social Security’s 81st birthday this month. Social Security was created in a far different era, so it is easy to see that it could use some updating after all these years.

AARP’s new numbers about the impact a 25 percent cutback would have in our state make it clear that we need a much more detailed public debate. This is vital for younger workers, our children and our grandchildren.

Just like today’s retirees, they, too, will depend on Social Security one day.

Maren E. Turner is director of AARP Kansas.