Kathleen Romig, Senior Policy Analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Jeff Cruz, Senior analyst for Social Security and senior advisor for Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on the Senate Budget Committee
Ask any Millennial what they think about Social Security, and the most common answer you’ll get is “but it won’t be there for me, will it?” Fully three-quarters of this generation say they are not confident they’ll receive all of the Social Security benefits they’re supposed to get when they retire. But the funny thing is, young people have been saying this for decades – and yet by the time each generation reaches retirement, they end up relying heavily on the still-strong program.
Widespread misperceptions like this – that young people don’t have a stake in Social Security, that the program is only for old people, that it won’t be there in the future – have plagued Social Security ever since its beginning. Yet the facts are contrary to each of those myths. For young workers facing many other financial risks, Social Security is critical not only because it frees us from supporting our retired parents, but also because it will provide an essential foundation for our own retirement – as far down the road as that seems. As other sources of retirement income, like pensions, savings, and housing values, are increasingly uncertain, there’s a good chance that by the time today’s young adults are ready to retire, reliance on Social Security will be even greater than it is today.
For young workers and their families, Social Security also provides critical life and disability insurance. It’s an unfortunate fact that a 20-year-old worker has a 1 in 4 chance of becoming disabled before reaching full retirement age. Again, Social Security is there, especially for those life-changing tragedies we can’t plan for.
And despite the low confidence, the truth is that we can be confident in Social Security’s future. Social Security is sound, facing only a fixable long-term revenue shortfall. And it will be there in the future for our generation, and for the generations that follow us.
To help unpack these misperceptions that lead so many young people to question whether they even have a stake in the program, we’ve put together an exciting panel of speakers at the Academy’s upcoming policy conference.
Moderated by Helaine Olen (a journalist writing for The Washington Post and other outlets), the panel will cover the past, present, and future of misconceptions about Social Security among young people and others. Kathleen Romig (Senior Policy Analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities) will walk us through the history of how these misperceptions arose and why they’ve managed to persist for so long. Rebecca Cokley (Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress) will highlight Social Security’s disability protections and why young people are more likely to need those protections than they might think. Finally, Meg Bostrom (co-founder of the public opinion and communications firm Topos Partnership) will walk us through where we go from here – sharing insights from messaging and other public education strategies for helping all Americans realize their important stake in Social Security’s retirement and disability protections.
We welcome all participants, young and old, to join this discussion and look forward to seeing you on January 31!