The combination of these two forces pushed the Social Security Trust Fund balance from about zero in 1980 to $2.9 trillion today. But now, the coronavirus pandemic threatens to undo all those gains, and without swift action by the government a new crisis may be at hand.
The fund's Trustees noted in an April report that net inflows into the Trust Fund will turn negative next year, commencing a demise that will see the Trust Fund go broke in 2035. Then, payroll taxes will cover only 79% of promised retiree benefits. Here's the troubling part: "The projections and analyses in this year's report do not reflect the potential effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Social Security program," the Trustees stated in the annual report. Clearly, benefits will increase as more workers retire early or claim disability while payroll taxes swoon with the drop in employment.
Social Security is not like a cash-value life insurance policy in which an individual's premiums and interest earned on them are eventually paid out to the insured or in death benefits. Instead, Social Security transfers the payroll taxes of employees and employers to retirees, plus interest.