PHOENIX – Most Arizona seniors rely heavily on Social Security for their income, an AARP report found.
David Mitchell, AARP Arizona state director, said that reliance among seniors not just here but around the country is a reason why Congress shouldn’t tinker with Social Security while addressing the budget deficit.
“Everything’s on the table, and when they say everything is on the table, there’s a vulnerability there for both Social Security and Medicare,” he said.
In a recent study, the organization’s Public Policy Institute found that more than 19 million seniors relied on Social Security for at least 50 percent of their family income.
In Arizona, the study found, Social Security accounts for at least half of the family income for 47 percent of those over 65 and 90 percent of income for nearly 20 percent.
“It’s really the backbone of financial security for people when they retire, and it’s something they can count on,” Mitchell said.
More than 750,000 people over 65 in Arizona were receiving Social Security benefits by end of 2010, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration.
Mitchell said this generation of retirees is very dependent on Social Security because many are from an era in which the wife relied on the husband’s income. Also, many companies that once offered pensions have either canceled them or gone bankrupt, he said. “So Social Security is really their only safety net,” he said.
Price Fishback, a professor of economics at University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, said there is no immediate threat to Social Security, although it is becoming harder to sustain.
He said cuts would make the situation worse for seniors relying on it, but if the country is to maintain the system there has to be a way to pay for it. He noted that the program would become increasingly expensive with baby boomers approaching retirement.
Mitchell said Social Security is well, and if untouched would take care of eligible retirees until 2037, with only minor adjustments needed to make it sustainable beyond that year.