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The Social Security fund is on track to run out of money by 2037.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office calculates that this year alone Social Security will collect $45 billion less in payroll taxes than it pays out in benefits. The CBO says the fund will continue to operate in deficit each year until it's drained.
The struggling economy for the past few years has made Social Security's finances worse just when baby boomers stand ready to retire. High unemployment has payroll taxes lagging at the same time applications for benefits are rising.
Social Security experts say news of permanent deficits should be a wake-up call that reform is urgently needed.
More than 54 million people receive retirement, disability or survivor benefits from Social Security. Monthly payments average $1,076.