Most Americans count on Social Security as a significant piece of their retirement plan. For some, it will be a nice supplement to their pension or their personal savings; for others, it will be their entire retirement benefit. The nation recently celebrated Social Security’s 80th birthday and its success at providing a dignified retirement for many Americans. For some workers, however, Social Security does not factor into their retirement plan.
In twelve states and parts of three others, state and local public employees do not contribute to Social Security and, therefore, do not receive benefits from it in retirement. For these workers, their defined benefit pension and their personal savings are their only sources of retirement income. When Social Security was created, these state and local governments chose not to enroll their employees in the program because they believed the pension benefits they offered were better than what the employees would receive in Social Security.
Now, unfortunately, firefighters, librarians, and other public employees in some of these states face threats to their pensions. Cuts to their pensions would be particularly harmful to these workers since they do not have Social Security to rely on in retirement. Imagine if Congress tried to cut Social Security benefits. It would devastate millions of aging Americans and their families. That’s exactly what a firefighter in California or a teacher in Missouri would face if some politicians got their way and cut pensions.
Below is a list of the states where public employees are not covered by Social Security:
- Georgia (certain local governments)
- Kentucky (certain local governments)
- Rhode Island (certain local governments)
Update (May 2017): to learn more about the history of why public employees do not participate, please see our most recent blog post on this important topic.