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Candidates’ Views on Social Security

Written by
Sarah Aitchison
Attorney
May 16, 2024  ·  3 min read
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As the 2024 election approaches, the debate over raising the retirement age has taken center stage, sparking discussions about Americans’ retirement plans, financial readiness, and trust in the Social Security Administration (SSA). We recently gauged perceptions about this using a survey of 1,000 working Americans. Find out what workers think is the right retirement age, their ideal retirement timelines and financial preparedness, and how these things could impact their voting decisions.

Perceptions of increasing retirement age

Key takeaways

  • 37% of working Americans doubt they’ll ever be able to retire, especially Gen X (39%) and millennials (38%).

  • On average, working Americans want to retire at age 63.7, but Gen Z aims for 62.5 and baby boomers prefer 66.4.

  • 69% of Gen Xers and 55% of baby boomers expect to delay retirement.

  • 75% of Gen Xers and 58% of baby boomers don’t think Social Security will be able to provide for them when they retire.

  • 44% of Gen Z doesn’t know what Social Security is or what it does. 

  • 79% of working Americans say a candidate’s stance on Social Security will influence their votes in the upcoming election.

When to retire

Americans are grappling with the question of when to exit the workforce. We asked about when they want to retire and the factors influencing these timelines.

Retirement timelines among working Americans

We found a troubling trend: 37% of working Americans doubted they’d ever be able to retire, especially women (40%), Gen X (39%), and millennials (38%). On average, working Americans said they would like to retire at age 63.7, but this ideal retirement age varied across generations. Gen Z wanted to retire the earliest at age 62.5, while baby boomers preferred the older age of 66.4. Millennials and Gen X fell in between, with desired retirement ages of 63.3 and 64.2, respectively. 

When asked what factors most influence their desired retirement age, 1 in 8 working Americans cited concerns about age discrimination, fearing that older workers might face fewer job opportunities and unequal treatment in the workplace. Other key factors influencing these desired retirement timelines were:

  • Financial stability (74%)

  • Health conditions (51%)

  • Lifestyle and leisure interests (47%)

  • Economic climate (43%)

  • Family considerations (36%)

Retirement readiness

Financial preparedness and trust in the Social Security system are key to a successful, secure retirement. Next, we’ll uncover the challenges and concerns Americans face as they approach this milestone.

Social Security confidence

Many Americans had doubts about Social Security: 75% of millennials and 74% of Gen X believed Social Security to be unsustainable in the long term. Another 75% of Gen Xers and 58% of baby boomers expressed a lack of confidence in its ability to provide for them during retirement. The lack of trust in the SSA system stemmed from concerns about the program’s solvency (70%), the economic climate (66%), and insufficient cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) (64%).

Uncertainty about retirement was also evident in Americans’ lack of financial preparedness, with 69% of Gen Xers, 68% of women, and 67% of millennials expecting to retire later than planned. Many baby boomers (55%) also said they expect to delay retirement. The industries in which workers were the least prepared to retire were food and hospitality (79%), retail (73%), and construction (67%).

What if the retirement age were raised? Gen Z was the most likely generation to consider applying for disability benefits if that happens (62%). However, 44% of Gen Z admitted they don’t know what Social Security is or what it does. Overall, 36% of working Americans who were considering applying for disability benefits said they would do so earlier than originally planned if the retirement age is raised.

Election decisions

The retirement age debate takes on new significance as we approach the 2024 presidential election. How might candidates’ stances on the issue sway voters?

Political stances on retirement age

The future of Social Security has become a defining factor in American political choices, especially for older generations. Baby boomers (94%) and Gen Xers (83%) were the most likely to say that a candidate’s stance on Social Security would influence their vote in the upcoming election. Even across all generations, 79% of working Americans said a candidate’s position on this issue would sway their vote.

From Retirement to Ballots

The retirement age debate is a pivotal issue in the lead-up to the 2024 election. As Americans grapple with concerns about financial readiness for retirement, Social Security’s sustainability, and the best retirement timeline, they could use some clarity on the future of retirement in America. Beyond individual retirement plans, this could influence workforce dynamics, economic growth, and the long-term viability of the SSA. This calls for informed discussions and solutions that balance the needs and aspirations of all generations.

Methodology

We surveyed 1,002 working Americans about their perspectives on retirement age, financial preparedness, and confidence in Social Security. We also explored how political candidates’ positions on these issues could influence their voting decisions in the upcoming 2024 election. The respondents were evenly divided by gender, with 50% identifying as women and 50% as men. The generational breakdown of respondents was as follows: Gen Z (11%), millennials (59%), Gen X (24%), and baby boomers (7%). Percentages don’t total 100 exactly due to rounding.

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Sarah Aitchison

Attorney

Sarah is an attorney at Atticus Law, P.C. Prior to joining Atticus, she was a civil public defender in Brooklyn, NY and a business reporter in Seattle, WA. She is a graduate of the University of Washington School of Law.
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