The bleak retirement picture for many Americans may result in Social Security benefits being eliminated or reduced for the wealthy, say many advisors in a recent survey by Financial Advisor magazine.

The retirement income shortfall, some respondents say, might also lead to seniors being forced to make it on their own because the government would be unable or unwilling to do anything to help or to start a new welfare system to boost Social Security.

Financial Advisor magazine surveyed nearly 1,800 advisors on retirement issues in the FA 2014 Retirement Survey. This is the second in a series of stories about the survey results.

Advisors were asked what would happen if within the next 10 to 15 years at least 40 percent of retirees cannot survive on Social Security and their savings. The largest group, 35 percent, feels Social Security benefits will be increased for middle- and lower-income recipients, while the system will be means-tested for wealthy Americans.

“A lot of people will retire later in life or continue to do part-time work in retirement,” says Kathleen Kee of Confluence Wealth Management LLC in Portland, Ore. “Others will have to do some belt tightening and many will rely on the equity in their homes as part of their nest egg.”

Those measures plus an increase in Social Security benefits would help some retirees get by. But middle-income Americans need financial advice they are not receiving now, says Kee. “Not a lot of advisors work with the middle market. We are trying to address that as an industry.”

Irey Stone, a financial advisor with Edward Jones in Flower Mound, Tex., agrees Social Security benefits will be increased for some if a large percentage of retirees are finding it impossible to survive. Stone says the situation will be helped if more people have financial advisors.

“Everyone needs a financial advisor,” he says. “Most people think they can understand finances and manage on their own, but they could use help.”

Anothe solution might be that the government steps in to provide indigent seniors with a welfare payment on top of Social Security, according to 20.5 percent of those surveyed.

“People are going to run out of money. As pensions dry up, they are going to have to fall back on the government. The next 10 or 15 years are going to be very interesting and could be very tragic,” says Marilyn Suey, a financial advisor with Yerba Buena Financial Partners LLC in San Ramon, Calif. “Reverse mortgages are going to be one answer for those who own a home.”

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