When it comes to Social Security, the majority of new retirees are no longer getting what they paid for.
In a trend that's only projected to get worse, retirees from the middle-class on up are cashing checks that are smaller than the ones they wrote to the government. For the first time since the program's inception, only people in the lowest income brackets are currently receiving more in benefits than they paid out in taxes over the course of their careers, according to an Associated Press analysis.
The news is unwelcome, yet unsurprising. Barring extreme legislative action, experts predict that the coffers of government-backed retirement fund will be empty as early as 2033.
The problem is simple: fewer workers are paying into the program and more retirees are cashing checks.
According to figures from the Social Security Administration (SSA), there are currently about 56 million retirees and disabled individuals collecting benefits. This translates to a ratio of about one beneficiary per every 2.8 workers.
This proportion is set to get even smaller in the coming years as millions of baby boomers leave the workforce, shifting the cost of their retirement onto the less populous younger generations.
The future path of the Social Security program is likely to be greatly influenced by the results of the upcoming federal election.
Though no drastic reforms have been recently implemented, proposals for preventing the collapse of the program run the gamut. Lawmakers have suggested a variety of solutions, including: raising the retirement age, reducing the amount of benefits paid to retirees, even allowing workers to put a portion of their Social Security tax into a private individual retirement account.