Lesson Plan: The Future of Social Security

The Social Security System

A 1952 film produced by the U.S. government that explains how the Social Security system works.


The Social Security Act of 1935 was created in response to social problems that had developed in the 19th and early 20th century. The act created the Social Security program which is funded by payroll taxes and provides benefits to older Americans and Americans with disabilities. With a growing percentage of older Americans in the United States, there have been predictions that there could be funding shortfalls by 2033. This lesson reviews the history of the Social Security program, its current funding model and potential solutions to fixing the future funding shortfalls.


  • WARM-UP:

    Before beginning the class, have the students answer the following question. Discuss the answers as a class.

    • How do retired people get money to provide for their needs?

    Have the students review or define the following vocabulary words that will be used in the lesson. Clear up any misconceptions before viewing the video clips.

    • Baby Boomer Generation
    • Benefits
    • Payroll Tax
    • Retirement
    • Trust Fund

    Have the students view the following videos and answer the associated questions on the following handout.

    Handout: Future of Social Security (Google Doc)

  • Video Clip: Social Security (5:49)

    • What benefits did the Social Security Act of 1935 provide for U.S. citizens?

    • Explain the process of contributing to social security as well as receiving benefits from the program.
  • Video Clip: How Social Security is Funded (1:31)

    • What happens to the money that you pay into Social Security?

    • When you retire, where will the money for your Social Security benefits comes from?

    • What problem does Mr. Tanner will happen with the Social Security program in the future?
  • Video Clip: The Current Status of Social Security (2:04)

    • What are some problems with Social Security moving forward?

    • What might happen to Social Security benefits if nothing is done to address the problems of Social Security?
  • Video Clip: Solutions and Obstacles to Fixing Social Security (2:15)

    • According to Mr. Blahous, how is the "window of opportunity" in dealing with the shortfall of Social Security funds closing?

    • What are the two main actions that the government can take to address this shortfall?

    • Why are lawmakers hesitant to address the problems with Social Security?

    Review the student responses from the introductory videos. Address any misconception. Using the chart on the Future of Social Security handout view each of the videos exploring possible solutions to the problems with Social Security. For each solution, summarize the main idea and provide drawbacks and obstacles for each. Review these responses.

    Video Clip: The Social Security Payroll Tax Cap (2:23)

    Video Clip: Increasing the Age for Social Security Benefits (2:38)

    Video Clip: Fixing Social Security Through Economic Growth (2:37)

    Video Clip: Reducing Social Security Benefits (2:27)

    Video Clip: Increasing Social Security Taxes (1:48)


    Either as individuals or in small groups, have the students come up with their own solution for fixing Social Security.

    In addition to developing their solution, they should also summarize any potential arguments against their proposal. Have the students present and defend their proposals to the class.


    Public Service Announcement- Create a short video informing the public about the Social Security program and its future.

    Additional Writing Prompt-

    • Is the current structure of the Social Security program fair to all people?

    • Do you think Congress will address the problems with Social Security? Why or why not?

    • Is the Social Security program necessary? Explain your answer.

Additional Resources


  • Assets
  • Baby Boomers
  • Benefits
  • Charity
  • Economics
  • Entitlement
  • Generation
  • Interest
  • Legislation
  • Payroll Tax
  • Retirement
  • Shortfall
  • Tax
  • Trust Fund
  • Wages


Bureaucracy & RegulationEconomics & Financial LiteracySocial Services


High School