The US pensions system is heading towards bankruptcy, President George W Bush has said in a news conference carried on prime-time television.
Mr Bush's approval ratings have taken a tumble on domestic issues
Mr Bush said pensions had to be reformed to provide the elderly with a financial safety net after retirement.
He proposed curbing the pension growth of wealthier Americans to protect the retirement income of low-wage workers.
On energy, Mr Bush said he would urge oil-producing nations to raise output to ease the strain on US consumers.
Mr Bush warned that social security would be insolvent by 2041 if it was not reformed.
"I propose a social security system in the future where benefits for low income workers will grow faster than benefits for people who are better off," he told a news conference at the White House.
"This reform would solve most of the funding challenges facing social security."
Central to his social security reform programme is the introduction of private stock market accounts into the US pension system.
However, some members of the president's own Republican party share the Democrats' concerns about his plans, while opinion polls show many Americans remain unconvinced about the need for reform.
On energy policy, Mr Bush announced several measures to reduce US reliance on overseas production, including using domestic resources more efficiently and helping growing economies such as China and India reduce their demand for fossil fuels.
"Millions of American families and small businesses are hurting because of higher gasoline prices," he said.
"My administration is doing everything we can to make gasoline more affordable.
"In the near term we will continue to encourage oil producing nations to maximise their production."
Correspondents say the energy bill going through Congress has a stronger chance of getting through this year than in previous ones, because high energy prices are more of a political issue now and because the Republicans have more members since last year's election.
The president also renewed his support for his choice for US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, whose nomination has drawn objections from the Senate.
"John Bolton is a blunt guy," he said. "Sometimes people say I'm a little too blunt. John Bolton can get the job done at the United Nations."