I’m a 2009 college graduate who recently started working at the National Committee. I may be new to the organization but Social Security and Medicare have always been interests of mine. And, the older I get, the more I realize how important these programs are to the American people. Additionally, I have a personal connection due to my own family members receiving benefits from one or more of these programs.

For most young people, odds are, at least one person they know is relying upon Social Security or Medicare. But, do these same young people know that these are two of the most successful government programs ever created? Social Security is the most effective anti-poverty system in the United States. Medicare provides coverage to older Americans who previously were not able to find or afford healthcare from private insurance companies. This is very important to remember. Why? Because the upcoming elections have put the nation’s debt and deficit under the microscope and Social Security and Medicare have become convenient targets for a debt, deficit they didn’t create.

I believe it is our responsibility to make sure the correct facts about Social Security are told. I had the privilege of attending a National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) conference on Social Security for young people. There was a great report being passed around: A Young Person’s Guide to Social Security. I highly recommend reading this awesome piece of information.

As the Social Media Coordinator for the National Committee, I constantly see comments posted such as, “It’s not like Social Security will be there for me” or “Social Security? That’s just for old people.” If I had a dime for every time I read or heard that, I think I could extend the solvency of the program by another decade.  Social Security is not just for seniors. The program, “Pays monthly survivors’ benefits to seven million Americans, including almost two million children”.

“CHILDREN?! Did you say children receive Social Security?” Yes!

“It does this by protecting our most vulnerable citizens from falling into poverty, raising the standard of living for lower-income workers, and providing financial security to the spouses and dependent children in the event of a worker’s disability or death.”

“So, it’s a pretty good deal, but, what about the program’s financing?”

Social Security has enough income and assets to pay full benefits through 2033. It’s on solid financial ground. With just a few modest changes Social Security’s solvency can be extended beyond 2033 without cutting benefits. For instance, workers pay FICA, or the payroll tax, on income up to $110,000. That’s the cap, meaning that any income over $110,000 is not subject to the tax.  Lifting that cap would extend the solvency of Social Security by decades.

“We should privatize it, that’ll fix it!”

Not exactly. Putting that money in personal accounts for Wall Street to manage isn’t really the ideal plan. We’ve seen Wall Street manage funds before. Sorry, I mean, “mis-manage”.  It’s a good idea to have individual savings through a 401k or savings account but it should be in addition to Social Security. Depending on how Wall Street is doing, a 401(k) plan could hit a slump which means you get less money. But Social Security doesn’t hit slumps. Once you start collecting, your monthly benefit amount is guaranteed. And since young people aren’t able to save much these days due to unemployment, student loans, and the high cost of living, it is even more important for a program like Social Security to be there for us.

And, let’s get something else cleared up. People are not getting rich off Social Security. Seniors are not living lavish lifestyles because of their monthly checks. The average annual income is only $14,000. That’s why our grandparents and parents can’t afford cuts to their Social Security benefits.  Do these leaders in Washington who want to cut Social Security not have elderly relatives or are they all so wealthy they’ve lost touch with middle class Americans? Politicians use this idea of seniors living lavish life styles to do one thing, pit the young vs. the old. They try to make it seem like it’s good policy to cut benefits because the elderly can afford it.

As young people, Social Security is a program we have a vested interest in protecting.  When we’re working, we’re paying into Social Security. That’s our money and why wouldn’t we want it there to protect us too? We need to stay informed by connecting with organizations like the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the Roosevelt Institute, Young Invincibles or National Academy of Social Insurance.  Learning the facts, exchanging ideas or taking action against proposals to cut future benefits, this is how we can help protect our future because counting on the next person to do something just won’t get it done.