Back in the U.S.A.

Buz Livingston
Buz Livingston

Over the Fourth of July, you will hear “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but this holiday don’t overlook an underappreciated song about America, Chuck Berry’s “Back in the U.S.A.” Berry extols American virtues but a cornerstone, Social Security, faces an uncertain future. Linda Ronstadt’s version on “Live in Hollywood,” released earlier this year, is the quintessential cover of Berry’s classic. Rock and roll is an American gift to the world.

For practically all Americans, Social Security is a retirement bulwark. New York Times columnist Jeff Sommer (June 21, 2019) argues citizens need to be active and contact their national representatives regarding Social Security’s looming deficit. Retirement planning professionals urge clients to live below their means before and after they stop working, invest appropriately, and work as long as they enjoy it or they can. But now my industry should encourage clients to demand answers from Congress. “We’ll figure it out” is not a remedy. Kicking the can down the road only makes the problem worse.

According to actuaries, in the next decade and a half, Social Security will have insufficient assets to pay projected benefits. Some households can handle the expected 20 percent reduction, but most would be devastated. Twenty percent of retired couples and almost 40 percent of senior singles receive 90 percent or more of their income from Social Security. As Sommer noted, “Solidifying Social Security may be the most important personal financial dilemma most people will face.” Instead of whining on social media about immigrants receiving Social Security (conservatives) or Social Security used for tax cuts (liberals), contact your Congressman. If you don’t know who your Congressman is, ask Google, then enter your zip code. One of the drop-down tabs on their topic list is Social Security; the ball’s in your court. It takes less time than making a Facebook post."

Almost 30 percent of Walton County residents receive Social Security benefits, either from their earnings, spousal, survivor, or disability benefits. Unless you have liquid net worth approaching eight figures, Social Security will play a critical role in your retirement. According to Federal Reserve statistics, one-third of Americans have less than $100,000 saved for retirement. Another 20 percent have less than $10,000 set aside. Astonishingly 14 percent don’t know how much they have saved. Twelve percent have over $500,000 for retirement, but Social Security payments don’t have equity market fluctuations.

The solutions for Social Security are simple but far from easy to enact. Liberals love circular firing squads; President Obama faced the scorn of sanctimonious lefties with his attempt to craft a bi-partisan solution during his term. Either taxes go up, benefits go down or some combination of the two, unfortunately, it’s political kryptonite. But politicians will listen if people let them know they want it fixed. Keeping a democratic republic is not a spectator sport.

You can’t always get what you want but Buz Livingston, CFP can help you figure out what you need. For specific advice, visit or drop by 2050 West County Highway 30A, M1 Suite 230.