10/22/2010 01:02 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Will Social Security Be There for Today's Young Workers?

Social Security reform is a touchy subject these days for Thomas Brown and his grandparents.

"If I broach it with them, they are against any sort of legislation that would do anything to change Social Security," says Brown, a 28-year-old financial adviser with Pivot Point Advisors in Houston. "They depend on it, but when I look at my retirement plans, I don't factor it in. The new way of thinking is that Social Security won't be there -- you have to plan for your own retirement."

I write frequently about the future of Social Security, and pessimistic views like Brown's always show up in the comments below my stories. Indeed, Gallup reports that six out of ten pre-retirement Americans don't think Social Security will be able to pay them a benefit when they retire; those age 18-34 are even more pessimistic, with 76 percent saying they'll get nothing from the system.

The doubts aren't difficult to understand. "If you listen to any number of the news outlets, they'll tell you the system is going broke," says Brown. "Every year I get a mailing from Social Security detailing what I can expect in benefits, and they say themselves that it will be bankrupt around 2040 and that they are going to be paying out more than we're paying in. So it's not fear, it's math."

But Social Security isn't going bankrupt -- far from it. The system was intended -- and has always been -- a pay-as-you-go system, with taxes collected from workers used to pay current retirees. But Social Security also is sitting on a $2.5 trillion Social Security Trust Fund (SSTF) that has been stockpiled to fund the looming wave of baby boomer retirements; that fund is projected to be sufficient to pay benefits until about 2037.

Previously published at Reuters.