Social Security turned 81 over the weekend, with a shout-outfrom the Democratic staff on the Joint Economic Committee of theU.S. Congress.

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Related: Social Security will be there for you,Millennials

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According to a report from the JEC’s Democratic staff, SocialSecurity helps more than 60 million individuals, or almostone-third of the U.S. population, and two-thirds of thoserecipients collect retirement benefits.

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The average benefit in 2016: $1,350 per month, or just over$16,000 annually. While that may not seem like much money, it’s themajority of income for 45% of all seniors and 90% or more of incomefor 22% of seniors.

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Related: Democratic party shifting left on SocialSecurity

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One in four women age 65 or older receive 90% of their incomefrom Social Security, compared with less than one in five men.Unmarried retirees are twice as likely as married retirees to relyon Social Security for more than 90% of their income.

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“Without Social Security income, the poverty rate among women 65and older would increase from 12% to over 45%,” the report notes,citing a 2015 report from the Center on Budget and PolicyPriorities. The comparable numbers for black and Hispanic seniorswithout Social Security payments is also around 50%, according toJEC calculations based on Census Bureau data.

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Related: 10 best states to retire rich and staythat way

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“Social Security has been a pillar of economic and retirementsecurity for more than 80 years,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney(D-N.Y.), ranking member of the committee, in a press release. “Itwill be even more important in the coming decades.”

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One reasons for that: the decline of pensions. Roughly 80% ofemployees at medium or large firms had pensions in 1985, comapredwith less than 30% today, according to the report, citing theEmployee Benefit Research Institute and the Bureau of LaborStatistics.

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Many employees have the option of saving for retirement throughdefined contribution plans, which often include some matching fundsfrom employers, but aren’t able to save much.

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“Slow wage growth and rising costs of living have made it hardfor many families to save for retirement,” according to the report,noting that average weekly earnings of production andnonsupervisory workers, adjusted for inflation, are lower todaythan they were in the 1970s while spending for education, healthcare and child care have grown.

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Those workers and others will need Social Security to fund theirretirement, and there will be less money in the future. Unlessmeasures are taken to shore up the program, Social Securitypayments will be reduced by about 25% after 2034, according to thelatest Social Security Trustees report.

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The Joint Economic Committee Democratic report doesn’t offermuch in the way of shoring up Social Security except to say thatraising the maximum level of income subject to the Social Securitypayroll tax “would increase the progressivity of Social Security,since a greater share of high earners’ wages would be subject totax and the higher benefits they would receive [because they livelonger than other wage earners] would not equal the higher taxespaid into the program.”

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Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Researchat Boston College, has written that “the long-run deficit” ofSocial Security “can be eliminated only by putting more money intothe system or by cutting benefits. There is no silver bullet. …[and] “stabilizing the system’s finances should be a high priorityto restore confidence in our ability to manage our fiscal policyand to assure working Americans that they will receive the incomethey need in retirement.”

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Laurence Kotlikoff, an economics professor at Boston Universityand the author of several books on Social Security, says theshortfall in Social Security funds is many times larger than SocialSecurity Trustees report finds — close to $32 trillion if thepresent future value of financing Social Security is appliedagainst the present future value of liabilities.

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Kotlikoff, who is running for president as a write-in candidate,suggests instead a complete overhaul of the Social Security programalong with a totally new tax system heavily focused on consumptioninstead of income. Social Security would be replaced by a personalsavings program in which everyone would have to contribute 10% oftheir income. More about the plan can be found at Kotlikoff for 2016.

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Bernice Napach

Bernice Napach is a senior writer at ThinkAdvisor covering financial markets and asset managers, robo-advisors, college planning and retirement issues. She has worked at Yahoo Finance, Bloomberg TV, CNBC, Reuters, Investor's Business Daily and The Bond Buyer and has written articles for The New York Times, TheStreet.com, The Star-Ledger, The Record, Variety and Worth magazine. Bernice has a Bachelor of Science in Social Welfare from SUNY at Stony Brook.