How do retiring Baby Boomers feel about entitlements? Start by asking them about Social Security.

Since the 2007 financial crisis, 38% of middle-income Baby Boomers -- with between $30,000 and $100,000 in annual income and less than $1 million in investable assets -- expect to rely on Social Security as the primary source of their retirement income, according to Bankers Life. That's up from 30% before the crisis and has given Baby Boomers some perspective about fluctuations in their savings and investments. Roughly 43% of middle-income Baby Boomers had planned to fall back on retirement accounts, investment and general savings, but just 34% think they'll be able to do so now.

The crisis has taken its tool and has made Baby Boomers cautious about their retirement planning. Nearly 75% of low-income Baby Boomers have changed their investment behavior as a result of the crisis. Roughly 28% are more conservative about how they invest. To put it modestly, they and their counterparts in the financial services industry have differing options about the role of Social Security in retirement.

"Social Security was designed to be a safety net, not a primary replacement for savings or income," says Scott Goldberg, president of Bankers Life. "Those who are in or near retirement should consider the various ways they can create future income to help achieve a secure retirement. There are products readily available in the marketplace that can help."

Well, Scott, good luck telling people who've paid into social security that they can't use it, especially when they aren' feeling particularly great about the economy. Only 2% of middle-income Boomers feel the economy has fully recovered, and 65% say they haven't benefitted from economic recovery. Of that group, more than half say their savings are lower now than before the crisis, and four in ten are not earning as much. While 45% of middle-income Boomers expected to retire debt free, only 34% anticipate a debt-free retirement now.

So what are those Boomers doing to compensate for that new reality? What they were doing before: working. According to the Bankers Life study, before the crisis, 35%of middle-income Boomers expected to work full time or part-time in retirement. Today, 48% expect to work full or part-time.

In many ways, the Baby Boomers are just figuring out what younger generations already know. According to, 70% of non-retired Americans plan to work as long as possible during retirement, while only 25% say they have no plans to work during retirement. Of those who plan to work, 38% will do so because they like to work, 35% say they need the money and 27% say both.

"Working during retirement brings a lot of benefits," says Jill Cornfield, retirement analyst. "When you can work as a consultant or find some part-time gig, it really helps you stay sharp."

Even with work, Social Security remains a big part of the equation. About 70% of workers expect it to account for some of their income in retirement, including 10% who are depending on Social Security for all of their income. While Boomers are confident Social Security will be there for them, Millennials (18-36) were the most likely to say that they don't expect to receive any money from Social Security when they retire (32%).

However, 63% of that younger generation think Social Security will fund at least some of their retirement several decades from now, and they aren't wrong wrong. Usually, folks concerned about Social Security read and stop after the part where they admit that the program will cost more than the tax revenue paying for it by 2019 and will run out of reserves in 2033.

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When you do that, you labor under the misguided notion that Social Security will stop making payments entirely in 2033. If you read on, however, you discover that Social Security will be able to keep paying 77% of all benefits due after that time and 72% of those benefits after 2088. This also assumes that absolutely nothing will be done to bolster Social Security until that time. Keep in mind that the retirement age for full benefits shifted from 65 to 67 for those born after 1959 and could easily do so again for future generations just to keep Social Security afloat.

Claiming Social Security benefits early -- and you can still claim those benefits at 62 -- is going to be a dicier proposition. A 62-year-old already reduces their benefits to 70% of what they could have had if they'd held out until 67. If you want the maximum benefit you can receive, you have to hold out until age 70. Fortunately, Boomers have figured this out as well.

According to a survey by Fidelity Investments, workers ages 55 to 61 are far less likely to take Social Security benefits at 62 than the generation before them. In 2008, 45% of 61-year-olds planned to collect Social Security as soon as possible. This year, that share dropped to 28%. That's about the extent of workers' Social Security savvy, however, as only 14% of workers know how much their Social Security benefits will be, while 26% have no idea.

"Social Security-related decisions can be complex, with a number of trade-offs associated with the various payment strategies," says Ken Hevert, senior vice president of retirement at Fidelity Investments. "This decision can be challenging and may be dependent upon several factors, including one's financial situation, health and lifestyle considerations and the needs of your immediate family."

Waiting to hit full retirement age can increase your Social Security income by as much as 30%. On average workers plan to wait until they turn 67 to collect, but 7% will wait until age 70. While workers don't seem to think the recovery has helped them all that much, it's given many of them the luxury to wait for bigger benefits. Nine years ago, 53% of 61-year-olds surveyed by Fidelity described themselves as unemployed. Now, that number has dipped to 41%, with 21% of workers feeling that delaying benefits gives them a better return. Only 10% felt that way in 2008.

However, it isn't exactly as if workers see Social Security as a luxury. Nearly 80% of workers plan to rely on their benefits to make ends meet and use the funds to pay for basic living expenses such as food, utility costs and mortgages, the same percentage as in 2008. But they definitely need to know more about Social Security before diving in. Though 67% claim to know the rules, 38% think you can increase your Social Security payout as you age (you can't), while 60% don't know you need to apply for Social Security three months before the first payment (including 9% who think the Social Security Administration will tell them when it's time to take benefits).

"Since most of us can expect to spend 20 years or more in retirement, it's imperative to maximize your income potential during these years so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor and live comfortably," says Hevert. "We were encouraged that more people seem to be making this decision more thoughtfully than in years past—not simply as a result of economic necessity. Even so, there are clearly additional ways to make certain you've made the best decisions possible for your specific situation."

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