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What Social Security Means to Lisa's Family by Joyce Williams


Lisa W., 52, is married with one daughter who is a senior in high school and planning to go to college next year.  Lisa began working at the age of 16 and has been paying into Social Security for the past 36 years.  She first worked in fast food in high school, waited tables in college, and managed restaurants for a time before settling into her current job as the Director of Marketing at a regional credit union.

When asked to participate in this interview her first thoughts were that she didn’t feel like she had enough knowledge to speak intelligently on the topic.  She was assured there were no right or wrong answers. When asked how she reacted to her insecure knowledge of the topic, she confessed that she had begun to consider the issue of Social Security’s importance in her financial future.  In the early part of our conversation, she shared that she expects Social Security to be supplemental to her other retirement income.   (This would change before the end of our conversation, so read on).


When asked if she is worried about having enough money when she retires, she said, “Of course I am! I wish I’d started saving for retirement earlier in my career. Unfortunately, when you’re young and dumb, you think retirement is a long way off. Don’t blink!”

She expects to have to work until she is of full retirement age (67) but has no interest in supporting raising the age to become eligible for full benefits.

Lisa’s interest in the subject enticed her to research the current presidential candidates’ proposals for salvaging Social Security for her retirement and her interest was further encouraged by what she uncovered as she found and read articles on the topic. What she found in their proposals often lacked both clarity and specifics.

Lisa figures in general terms she has earned $1.4 million in her career so far, and based on her current income could earn another $1.4 million in the years she has left to work.  By her time to retire, at $2.8 million dollars she and her employers will have paid over $347,000 into the Social Security program.  She has no confidence whatsoever that she will recoup anywhere near that amount.  Her research has her “ scared stiff” that if measures aren’t taken to secure the future of the program, she will not retrieve the amount invested.

As Lisa thought through her finances for the future including her 401k and her company’s pension plan, it became abundantly clear to her that Social Security benefits in her retirement would not be just supplemental as she had stated early in the interview but would be a vital part of her income in retirement to ensure her capacity to provide for her needs as she ages. That revelation has made her ever more committed to paying attention to what plans are being proposed for the program and the impact those plans will have on her future.  She hopes that others will begin to consider how the program and its potential failure will affect themselves and to demand that our presidential candidates and others running for and serving in the House and the Senate take measures to ensure its survival and improve its health.

In her research for securing Social Security for the future, Lisa found a number of possible alternatives to be considered. Among them were privatizing Social Security, raising the retirement age, reducing benefits, increasing taxes across the board, and increasing “the ask” on the wealthiest to contribute more.

Lisa prefers raising the cap of taxable income so that people who have earnings significantly over the $118,500 are taxed on their higher earnings.  She believes the 6.2% portion that employers make should be contingent on the success of the business in order to shore up the viability of small businesses that may be struggling to survive.

You can find our where your candidate stands on Social Security at the Take A Stand website.

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