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The Trump ad is an extreme exaggeration of how many Americans would be affected by Haley’s plans for Social Security. It would not affect retirees or people nearing retirement.
The ad’s 82% appears to refer to a rough estimate of the total Americans eligible for Social Security benefits. Haley has never advocated cutting all Social Security benefits for everyone currently in that 82%.
Nikki Haley’s plan involves raising the retirement age only for Americans in their 20s, not current beneficiaries or those nearing retirement. In that case, her plan could lead to reduced benefits for 26% of Americans alive today.
Learn more about PolitiFact’s fact-checking process and rating system.
Former President Donald Trump continues to attack Nikki Haley’s position on Social Security as he tries to siphon support from her in New Hampshire ahead of the state’s Jan. 23 presidential primary.
"Americans were promised a secure retirement. Nikki Haley’s plan ends that," a narrator says in a new Trump campaign ad airing in the Granite State. "Haley’s plan cuts Social Security benefits for 82% of Americans."
The 30-second spot features older people and a clip of Haley, Trump’s former U.N. ambassador, responding to a question about how she would address entitlement programs. "We say the rules have changed," Haley says in the ad. "We change retirement age to reflect life expectancy. What we do know is 65 is way too low, and we need to increase that."
A still from Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign ad "Threat from Within." (Screenshot from YouTube)
We know from a previous fact-check that this excerpt of Haley’s quote is missing context; Haley specified that the rules should change for younger Americans, not current or imminent beneficiaries.
But would her plan, as this new Trump ad claims, cut Social Security benefits for 82% of Americans — or roughly 272 million people?
No. The Trump ad is an extreme exaggeration of how many Americans would be affected by Haley’s plans for Social Security. It would not affect retirees or people nearing retirement.
Trump’s campaign didn’t respond to PolitiFact about its statistic’s source. The ad cites a CNN article that doesn’t support the claim.
The 82% appears to reference a rough estimate of the total Americans eligible for Social Security benefits. (Some people are not included because they receive Social Security disability insurance or are ineligible for Social Security, such as infrequent workers, for example.)
Haley has never advocated cutting all Social Security benefits for everyone currently in that 82%. Trump’s ad gives the false impression that Haley’s plan would end or cut into older Americans’ Social Security retirement. Haley’s more limited plan wouldn’t apply to current beneficiaries or anyone nearing retirement.
Haley has repeatedly said she would support increasing the age for Americans in their 20s, which she explained in the same interview that Trump’s ad misleadingly clipped. "The way we deal with it, is we don't touch anyone's retirement or anyone who's been promised in," Haley said in the Aug. 24 Bloomberg News interview. "But we go to people like my kids in their 20s, when they're coming into the system, and we say the rules have changed."
The retirement age for collecting full Social Security benefits is 67 for Americans born in 1960 and later and was between age 65 and 66 years and 10 months for people born before 1960.
Americans who choose to collect their benefits early (which they can do at 62) receive smaller monthly payments. This offsets the additional checks they’ll receive over their lifetimes. For example, people who collect Social Security benefits at age 64 instead of 67 receive 80% of their full monthly benefit. People who retire at 62 receive 70% of their full monthly benefit.
Raising the full retirement age means people who retire before the new cutoff would receive smaller benefits, and people who opt to wait for full benefits will have to retire later.
"As the system’s retirement age increases, everyone's benefits fall a bit, depending on the age you start collecting," said Richard Johnson, director of the Urban Institute’s program on retirement policy.
It’s not clear what year or age Haley’s proposal would kick in. But based on population estimates from the 2022 U.S. Census, if people ages 25 and older were excluded from a retirement age increase, which is in line with Haley’s pitch, her plan would likely reduce benefits for 26% of Americans alive today — decades from now.
Haley’s proposal ties the increased age requirement to gains in average U.S. life expectancy, which ticked up in 2022 after two years of decreases. (Not everyone is expected to live longer, though — research shows that life expectancy is shorter for people with lower socioeconomic status, — so, raising the retirement age based on that metric would reduce the years they’d receive Social Security benefits.)
Trump is hitting Haley for a similar position that he once held. In his 2000 book "The America We Deserve," Trump warned that the Social Security trust fund would run out in decades (which was accurate then and now). He suggested raising the retirement age to 70.
"A firm limit at age seventy makes sense for people now under forty," Trump wrote. "We’re living longer. We’re working longer. New medicines are extending healthy human life. Besides, how many times will you really want to take that trailer to the Grand Canyon? The way the workweek is going, it will probably be down to about twenty-five hours by then anyway. This is a sacrifice I think we all can make."
Trump no longer supports raising the retirement age and has vowed he wouldn’t make any cuts to the program. But he hasn’t offered a plan that would keep the Social Security trust fund solvent.
Johnson said that "doing nothing at all" would mean "all beneficiaries, including those with disability benefits, would suffer."
Gary Burtless, Brookings Institution economist and senior fellow, said Haley’s plan wouldn’t reduce costs until today's 20-somethings reach their early 60s, so it would have no impact on Social Security’s funding shortfall in the next 10 years, when the reserve fund is expected to be depleted.
A Trump campaign ad claimed Haley’s plan "cuts Social Security benefits for 82% of Americans."
The number is wrong. Haley’s plan wouldn’t affect current beneficiaries or Americans anywhere close to retiring, let alone 82% of the U.S. population.
While most proposals that call for increasing the retirement age represent a benefit cut for Social Security beneficiaries, Haley’s plan would apply to Americans in their 20s and younger. If people ages 25 and older were excluded from her proposed retirement age increase, that would represent benefit cuts for around 26% of Americans alive today — 40 years from now.
We rate Trump’s claim False.
PolitiFact Copy Chief Matthew Crowley contributed to this report.
CORRECTION, Jan. 31: We updated the story to clarify the age range for people born before 1960 to collect full Social Security.
Donald Trump campaign ad, Jan. 11, 2024
PolitiFact, Donald Trump omits context on Nikki Haley’s comments about US retirement age being too low, Jan. 8, 2024
Bloomberg Television, Haley says 65 is 'way too low' for retirement age, Aug. 24, 2023
U.S. Census, 2022 American Community Survey
PolitiFact, Trump suggested raising Social Security retirement age in 2000, but hasn’t backed it since, May 12, 2023
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Chart Book: Social Security disability insurance, Updated Dec. 13, 2023
Social Security Administration, Disability benefits
The Washington Post, Social Security funding crisis will arrive in 2033, U.S. projects, March 31, 2023
Social Security Administration, Fact Sheet SOCIAL SECURITY, Accessed Jan. 16, 2024
Congressional Research Service, The Social Security Retirement Age, Updated July 2022
Congressional Research Service, The growing gap in life expectancy by income: recent evidence and implications for the Social Security retirement age, Updated July 2021
Email and Phone interview, Richard Johnson, director of the program on retirement policy at the Urban Institute, Jan. 16-17, 2024
Email interview, Gary Burtless, economist and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Jan. 17, 2024
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