Medicare could run out of money by 2016, and Social Security’s trustees are urging Congress to make up the shortfall by taking funds out of Social Security, according to initial readings of the 2012 Social Security and Medicare Trustees reports, issued Monday.

If the Social Security and Medicare funds ever become exhausted, both programs would collect only enough money in payroll taxes to pay partial benefits, according to press reports.

“Today’s report—coupled with an anemic 4% savings rate—does not bode well for the financial futures of hard-working Americans,” Dale Brown, president and CEO of the Financial Services Institute said in a statement. “This reiterates the fact that utilizing an independent financial advisor is the best way to ensure retirement regardless of what happens with entitlements.”

Although the initial outlook is shaky, the reality is actually less dire, especially for Social Security, according to advocates of the retirement insurance program. 

“The most important take-aways from the 2012 Trustees Report will be that Social Security has a large and growing surplus,” according to a commentary from Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson, co-director of Social Security Works, an advocacy group leading up to the trustees report. “With modest legislated increases in revenue, it will continue to pay those benefits for the next century and beyond.”

Social Security would only be able to continue paying benefits for a year or two shorter than expected without Congressional action, but that outcome is still decades away, according to a statement from Altman and Kingson. The precise year has fluctuated in virtually every trustees report. Further, the authors say, current law prohibits Social Security from paying out more than it collects in revenues. “If there were less income than outgo this year, the trustees would be announcing an immediate cut in benefits,” according to the commentary. “They are not.”

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