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Monday, October 31, 2005


Social Security Reform and You

If Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid don’t get reformed by 2040, government spending will increase to 27.1% of the GDP, compared to about 19.9% in 2003. And this is assuming that the other discretionary parts of government spending will stay at the same relative percentage of the GDP, which could turn out to be an immense understatement. The large retiring baby boom generation, along with higher life expectancy, and raising health care costs are all attributing to the problems that are expected to arise in the current Social Security system. The Projected OASDI, (old age survivors disability insurance), shows that in 2017 the Social Security program will be running a deficit, but redeeming treasury securities will compensate for the deficit until 2041, when the treasuries will be depleted. Social Security reformation is undoubtedly needed, but what if any are the clear cut answers?

In 1936 the dependency ratio, the number of retirees to the labor force, was 15%, and in 1997 it was 29%. But by the year 2030 it’s expected to be 50%. This would imply that the current tax rate to pay Social Security pensions would have to rise to 17% in 2030, compared to 12% in 1996. Is a higher continuing OASDI rate necessary for sustaining the problems we will face? It seems that could be an answer if we want to maintain Social Security benefits. Another option that has been proposed is to create personal accounts. These accounts would be run and administered by the Social Security System, and individuals could choose how to invest their funds among stock and bond mutual funds. The pensions that individuals would receive from the individual account would originate from how much they contributed and how well their investments fared. This approach would require a 1.6% increase in payroll taxes, and would raise the retirement age to 67 by the year 2011, and allow the retirement age to be raised in the future based on longevity of the population.

The advantage of a privatization scheme is that it could increase the return to Social Security payments. However the flood of new money into the stock market along with the high cost of administering the small accounts would reduce their potential net return substantially. I think we should try and increase our national savings rate because the Social Security system gives us a false illusion that the taxes we pay are going to be there for us when we get older. Obviously this is not the case, because we will not receive our paid taxes, but instead the taxes on earnings of future workers. When our time comes to collect Social Security payments, if that be in the year 2045, the payroll tax would have to be 5% more than what it is today to compensate for the higher life expectancy, higher health care costs, and a higher dependency ratio. This is not sustainable and I plan on accumulating enough wealth so I will not have to be dependent upon Social Security.

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