Gallup Poll: Only 6 in 10 expect Social Security, but it's political hot potato

Six out of 10 Americans who aren't yet receiving Social Security believe they never will, according to a Gallup Poll conducted earlier this month. A similar number -- 56% -- of retired Americans now collecting Social Security believe their benefits will be cut.

Yet getting rid of Social Security or even reducing payments to current or soon-to-be recipients would be an incredibly hard sell. About 26 percent of retirees depend solely on Social Security. The National Center for Policy Analysis also calculates that Social Security provides one-third of the retirement income of the highest-earning households -- couples with pre-retirement incomes of $500,000 and singles who earned at least $250,000.

This year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 16% of the population is 62 or older -- and most are eligible for Social Security. By 2020, 20% of the population will be 62 or older and by 2030 that number will peak at 30%. Running for office without the support of that chunk of the population is almost unthinkable.

For some options to reform Social Security, take a look at the American Academy of Actuaries' "The Social Security Game," where you can try your hand at coming up with alternatives. Personally, I'm in favor of pushing the retirement age a little higher and making everybody pay Social Security taxes on every dollar they earn, instead of capping payments. This year's cap is $106,800, which means a lot of high earners don't pay on a large portion of their income.

But if you think my ideas are bad ones (or even harbor some better ones), the actuaries offer lots of other alternatives that work and preserve this important safety net. Plus, you can always comment below.