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The majority of Americans rely on Social Security during retirement. This is a big mistake. Social Security was only designed to provide about a third of our retirement income. In 2023 the average Social Security retirement benefit is $1,827.00 But Social Security only increases by a “chained COLA” and does not adjust for the rising cost of personal and medical care, costs which affect us heavily as we age.

Housing is estimated to account for 38% of our expenses. Even if you own your own home – and 87% of retired Americans do – you have housing expenses. Do you expect to cover the new roof and rising property taxes out of Social Security? While Texas seniors can defer property taxes, borrowing the amount at 5% per year, to be repaid by selling the house on their death, is this what you really want? Reverse mortgages are generally a bad idea, but do you not at least want that option if it means that you or your spouse could stay home longer?

You may think that it is only the younger generation which is paying into Social Security with little hope of benefit, but from the beginning, Social Security has been a “pay as you go” program, with the working generation paying for retirees. There are fewer people working and paying into Social Security today than when you were, through payroll deductions, contributing to your parents’ Social Security benefits. In five short years, the amount of Social Security retirement benefits is expected to fall to 80% of what it is today. Do you plan to live just on that?

No wonder this is called one of the biggest retirement planning mistakes.


Elder law attorney, Terry Garrett, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is an Approved Guardianship Attorney. She assists people in elder law, estate and special needs planning, guardianship and settling estates. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.

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