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Unpacking the 2024 Presidential Candidates’ Stances on Crucial Retirement Issues

As the U.S. approaches the 2024 presidential election, discussions are intensifying not just around hot-button topics like immigration and healthcare, but also on critical retirement issues. With Social Security and Medicare facing funding shortages within the next decade, understanding where the presidential candidates stand on these topics is more important than ever for voters.

The Looming Challenges of Social Security and Medicare

Current projections suggest that the Social Security retirement trust fund will be depleted by 2033, potentially reducing retiree benefits to 77% of their expected totals thereafter. Similarly, the Medicare Hospital Insurance trust fund is on track to be exhausted by 2031, with only 89% of Part A costs coverable post-depletion. These statistics highlight a pressing need for legislative action, something the next president will need to address decisively.

Presidential Influence on Retirement Policy

While Congress is primarily responsible for creating laws to secure the future of these programs, the president plays a crucial role in setting the policy agenda and implementing the laws. Justin Buchler, Associate Professor of Political Science at Case Western Reserve University, notes, “Anything not specified [by Congress] is up to the executive branch,” underscoring the president’s influence over the nuances of policy implementation.

Candidate Positions on Social Security

In addressing the Social Security shortfall, there are generally two approaches: increasing contributions to the fund or cutting benefits. President Joe Biden has expressed his opposition to cutting Social Security benefits or raising the retirement age. Instead, he advocates for higher-income households to “pay their fair share,” suggesting potential changes to the current Social Security tax cap, which is $168,600.

On the other hand, former President Donald Trump has not outlined a clear stance on Social Security through his campaign materials. However, his comments in various interviews suggest a reluctance to reduce benefits, despite broader party discussions that hint at potential cuts. The Republican Study Committee, for example, has proposed “modest changes” to the benefit formula and retirement age.

Approaches to Medicare’s Future

Medicare’s sustainability is another critical concern. Trump’s administration signaled a shift towards market-based approaches, which some interpret as a move towards privatizing Medicare. This was evident from an executive order aimed at providing more plan choices to seniors, which some critics saw as a step towards privatization.

Conversely, Biden has proposed solutions to extend Medicare’s solvency, such as increasing the Medicare tax rate on incomes above $400,000 and using funds from the net investment income tax to bolster the Medicare trust fund. His administration has also enabled Medicare to negotiate drug prices, a move expected to reduce costs significantly.

Additional Retirement Issues

Beyond Social Security and Medicare, both candidates have historically supported legislation beneficial to retirees and those saving for retirement. Trump signed the SECURE Act, enhancing 401(k) access for part-time workers and altering the age for required minimum distributions. Similarly, Biden’s SECURE 2.0 Act expanded automatic enrollment in workplace retirement plans and allowed for matching of worker student loan payments with retirement contributions.

The Stakes for Early Retirees

Healthcare continues to be a pivotal issue, particularly for early retirees who rely on the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace for insurance before they become eligible for Medicare. Trump’s opposition to the ACA poses potential risks for this group, whereas Biden’s policies have aimed at strengthening provisions that support early retirees.

The Role of Third-Party Candidates

While the focus is predominantly on the Democratic and Republican candidates, third-party candidates also present distinct perspectives. The Libertarian Party advocates for replacing the current Social Security system with a voluntary private one and favors a free-market healthcare system. Meanwhile, the Green Party supports Medicare for All and opposes the privatization of Social Security.


As the election nears, it is crucial for voters, especially seniors and soon-to-be retirees, to scrutinize the candidates’ policies on retirement. The decisions made by the next president will have long-lasting impacts on the availability and quality of retirement benefits, shaping the financial security of millions for years to come. Voters must consider not only what is promised but also the historical actions and broader party policies that support or undermine these promises. This election, the future of retirement is indeed a significant issue on the ballot.