Stressing Out Over the (In)Security of Social Security

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Why The Social Security Debate is Raising the Stress Levels of the Boomer Generation

Today’s baby boomers have enough to worry about: aging and health, an unpredictable stock market, their children and grandchildren living in a world threatened by terrorists. Suddenly, the growing volume of debate over the unstable state of Social Security and the radical changes that might occur is an added burden on the increasingly weary shoulders of the 50-something crowd.

According to Jo Anne White, Ph.D., a stress and relationship expert and Temple University professor, the raging debate over Social Security and the changes proposed by the Bush administration are causing a great deal of stress among the most populated generation in the country. A March 23, Associated Press (AP) story headline on the issue couldn’t have been more blunt: “Social Security Said to Go Broke in 2041.”

According to the AP, shortly after President Bush’s April 28 news conference, the White House issued written materials suggesting that future retires would receive lower payments based on a “sliding scale formula.”

“There is great concern, great fear and great worry,” says Dr. White, adding, “and as the debate goes on, there is going to be even more concern, more fear, and more worry.”

If the number of people contacting the Social Security Administration is any gauge of the anxiety gripping the population, consider this: The number of people visiting the Social Security Web site, and using its calculator to crunch numbers, has risen dramatically in the past year. In fact, just from December 2004, to February 2005, the number of “hits” – or visits – to the site increased by more than 16,000.

The main fear among those with whom she has spoken, says White, is that they haven’t had enough time to create a nest egg to carry them through their golden years.

“They also feel cheated,” she says. “Social Security is something they have paid into in order to get the returns when they retire. For many, it was financial security they could bank on in later years. Suddenly the rug is being pulled out from under their feet.”

Psychologically, there is a feeling of loss, she says. “People are feeling betrayed, let down by the government. They are losing faith in the system and don’t know who to turn to now.”

And it’s not just the baby boomers who are voicing concern. Members of the older generation – those collecting Social Security – are expressing fears, too.

“You would think they wouldn’t worry because they are currently being taken care of, but they are worried about their children and grandchildren,” she explains. “They worry about what kind of legacy they are leaving behind for the future generations.”

Mostly, the across-the-board anxiety is simply the fear of the unknown, White says. In order to triumph over social insecurity, she recommends the following:

· Get more information. Visit your local Social Security office or log onto the administration’s Web site ( in order to learn as much as you can about the proposed changes and how they would affect you.

· Seek financial advice. Take advantage of free financial planning seminars or make an appointment with a financial adviser to better understand your current finances and how to make the most of what you have. Consider the National Association of Financial Planners at for more information.

· Prepare for the future. Familiarize yourself with your options, then make a financial plan of action. This is the time to talk with family members and others that you care about. The AARP maintains a superb site that links to more than 700 different Web sites that are relevant to those over 50. Visit

For more information on Stress and Social Insecurity and to reach Professor White, contact:

Tom Peric’



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