Last week former Social security Administrator and syndicated Social Security columnist Tom Margenau presented a program called “The Top 10 Myths about Social Security” followed by the “real story” for each. He divides the myths into “political” (policy) and “program” (benefits and figures).

He presented 6 policy myths and 4-5 program myths. The policy myths will be listed; unfortunately the program myths were presented in the last 2-3 allotted minutes and the rapid-fire presentation was too fast to be recorded by this reviewer. I’m sure they can be obtained for those interested at Tom’s email

The  Social Security program represents 25% of the US government spending, but is funded separately. Up until 2019 funds coming in have covered outgo. Potential problems with future funding primarily relate to the large numbers of Americans  (baby boomers) currently retiring.

Some policy myths

1)     “Social Security won’t be there when I retire” (it’s been around for 80 years and minor changes will keep it afloat indefinitely.)

2)     “Illegal immigrants steal benefits from US citizens” (on the contrary, these immigrants put an estimated 2 billion into the system without getting anything back)

3)     “Deadbeats on SS disability are draining funds” (it’s difficult to qualify for SS disability and it’s a separate fund from retirement anyway)

4)     “Social Security is welfare” (a small number of people get dependents or spousal survivors benefits who have not worked themselves )

5)     “Social Security’s money problems could be solved by eliminating waste” (This is a very efficient program with 0.7% administrative costs)

6)     “Congress has stolen money from Social Security reserves and used it for other programs” ( LBJ “merged the books” during the expensive Vietnam War and subsequent administrations have done the same but currently the reserves stand at $2.8 trillion)

 Finally, the most popular suggested  fixes for the SS Trust Fund were listed and the pros and cons of    each discussed. The conclusion was that relatively minor changes could keep this fund solvent for 100 years but, thus far, the political will to enact changes has been lacking.

This was a very informative talk by a very well informed speaker (see his credentials in last week’s Rotogear)

For the past 21 years, Tom Margenau has been a nationally-syndicated newspaper columnist who writes a weekly column about Social Security programs and policies.  He is a nationally-recognized expert on Social Security and gives speeches and does media interviews on the topic.  In 2005, he retired following a 32 year career with the Social Security Administration.  While with SSA, Margenau worked in a variety of positions at the agency’s headquarters in Baltimore where he served as the deputy press officer and as the speechwriter for the Commissioner of Social Security.  And for many years, he headed SSA’s public information office where he was the chief editor of all the agency’s informational pamphlets and brochures.  Prior to his headquarters’ assignments, he worked 12 years in agency field offices processing Social Security claims and managing local field offices.  Margenau is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin.  He now lives with his wife Becky in Fort Collins, Colorado.