Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a podium with a sign reading, "Expand Social Security."

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) advocates the expansion of Social Security during a February 13, 2019 press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Sanders Report Warns Nearly Half of Older Americans 'Have No Retirement Savings'

"In the richest country in the history of the world, a secure and dignified retirement should be available to every American, not just the extremely wealthy."

A report published Wednesday by the U.S. Senate committee chaired by Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders exposed "the depth of the retirement crisis in America" while exploring "solutions that will allow all of our people to retire with dignity and security—not just the very wealthy."

The report—entitled A Secure Retirement for All—was released ahead of a Wednesday morning Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) hearing on the retirement crisis. The publication revealed that nearly half of Americans age 55 and older have no retirement savings. It also found that half of Americans age 65 and older are living on less than $30,000 per year, while 1 in people are fighting to survive on less than $15,000 annually.

Other key findings include:

  • Nearly 5.3 million Americans age 65 and older live in poverty, and roughly 1 in 10 seniors;
  • Nearly half of all Americans are at risk of a financially insecure retirement, up from 1 in 3 workers in 1983;
  • The average monthly Social Security benefit in 2023 was only about $1,782, or $21,384 annually; and
  • The top 20% of earners receive 63% of the $202 billion in annual income tax breaks for retirement accounts, while the bottom 60% receive just 13.4% of these breaks.

"Given the enormous growth of the economy over the past several decades, one might expect that the outlook for retirees is improving," the report states. "Yet, today nearly half of all Americans are at risk of a financially insecure retirement."

"For many, retiring on Social Security alone means that some months you can afford to either keep the lights on or get your prescription refilled," the publication adds. "The cost of healthcare in retirement is an enormous cost driver, for which many find themselves unprepared."

The report offers two main solutions to the retirement crisis: expanding and strengthening Social Security—"the most successful government program in our nation's history"—and enacting "Retirement Security for All" legislation that ensures every worker can save for retirement via their paychecks and guarantees lifetime monthly payments.

Last year, Sanders—along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Val Hoyle (D-Ore.)—introduced the Social Security Expansion Act, which would increase monthly benefits by at least $200 and extend the program's solvency for decades by lifting the cap on the maximum amount of income subject to the Social Security payroll tax.

The Social Security Administration's chief actuary said that had the bill been signed into law last year, the program would be able to pay full benefits to every eligible American for 75 years, without any tax increase for 93% of U.S. workers earning less than $250,000 per year.

"In the richest country in the history of the world, a secure and dignified retirement should be available to every American, not just the extremely wealthy," Sanders said on Wednesday. "Right now, more than half of older Americans have no retirement savings. More than 50% of our nation’s seniors are trying to survive on an income of less than $30,000 a year. That is absurd. Congress must address the retirement crisis facing working-class Americans across our country."

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