Social Security is designed to help seniors bolster their income month-to-month, but a new survey shows many are expecting to rely on it as a “lifeline” in retirement.

TD Ameritrade’s “Road to Retirement Survey” polled four different age groups (40-49, 50-59, 60-69 and 70-79), and the results found that 39% of respondents age 70-79  plan to rely on Social Security “a lot, as a lifeline to keep me afloat,” while 33% said they would rely on the benefits program “some.”

Social Security is meant to replace 40% of your income before retirement, so it was never intended to be a major lifeline like those polled suggest. When looking at the 60-69 age range, 30% said they would rely on Social Security “a lot,” while 39% replied with “some.”

The 40-49 and 50-59 age groups showed a little more skepticism for the future of Social Security, with 34% and 39% respectively saying they would only rely on the benefits “a little, as a cushion when I need it.” Social Security is projected to be insolvent by 2035, and benefits would be cut by up to 20% if lawmakers in Washington can’t find a funding solution.

The survey reveals the importance of retirement planning and saving. About 36% surveyed in the 70-79 age group said they had between $100,000 and $500,000 saved for retirement, but a whopping 20% (the next largest group) said they have less than $50,000 saved.

And retirement doesn’t always go as planned. According to the survey, 50% of retirees across all age groups said they had retired earlier than they wanted. Health issues caused early retirement for 38% of early retirees, while 22% said they had been laid off from their jobs.

If they could do it all over again, 75% of the 500 polled in the oldest age group said that saving for retirement earlier ranked as the No. 1 most important thing to do. Paying off debt as soon as possible was the second-most popular choice at 67%, and investing earlier in life rounded out the Top 3 at 65%.

Living longer was also a concern for the 2,000 individuals polled for the report. Forty-three percent of retirees aged 70-79 said they had reduced their expenses before retirement to bolster their accounts in case they lived longer. While in retirement, 57% in the same age group have reduced or plan to reduce their expenses.

Social Security is a great tool to bolster your income in retirement, but assessing other income streams and planning accordingly can be a huge boon in your golden years.

• You can find all of the latest and most important news about Social Security here on Money and Markets.

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