The Funding Uncertainty of Social Security
Social Security benefits, which are funded through 2 trusts, may not be available for much longer. The US Social Security Administrations funding trusts are known as the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund and the Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund. In their annual report to Congress, the Board of Trustees has published some startling details about projected insolvency for the Social Security Program. As reported, short term results indicate that beginning in 2020 and all subsequent years after; the program cost will exceed non-interest income. Because the OASI Trust has no authority to borrow money, asset spending will have to occur to cover the costs of social security benefits and deplete the reserves of both OASI and DI trusts. Considering each trust separately, the funds for the OASI Trust will be exhausted by the year 2034 and the DI Trust by 2052.
If you are 50 years of age or older and have worked, you have been participating in the funding of the Social Security Program for decades expecting protection against economic hardships that sometimes happen in retirement; protection promised to you by the federal government. The current actuarial status means that without significant changes to the OASI Trust, funding for your scheduled benefits is at risk of being reduced or possibly not there at all by 2034. It is a stunning admission by the Trustees of the unsustainability of a federally managed program handling your retirement money.
Many economists have likened social security to a Ponzi scheme, and now that the bulk of the population (baby boomers) are receiving benefits with fewer and fewer participants in younger generations paying into the system the entire program is in jeopardy. Increasing numbers of retirees, increasing longevity, and a shrinking workforce leaves the yearly intake of monies (receipts) and accrued interest less than the outlays to cover scheduled benefits. The law of large numbers works well until the pool of paying participants shrinks.
The current report suggests at the time of depletion of the combined trust reserves the Social Security Administration will be unable to pay scheduled benefits in full and on time in 2035. There is a suggestion in this report that it will suffice to pay between 77 to 80 percent of scheduled social security benefits. Legislative action is required to stop reserve depletion and preserve full payment of scheduled benefits to retiring and already retired Americans who have faithfully paid into the system. There is not a lot of time to get the fix in place because of the scale of the monies involved. Future beneficiaries may have a benefit reduction as a possible strategy to help shore up the program. Raising the rate of payroll taxes that both workers and employers have to pay is also a potential strategy. All of these proposed solutions are not likely to make voters happy since the essence of the fix is for the American taxpayer to receive less and pay more. Currently, the political gridlock in Congress does not give much hope that the social security benefit funding problem it will be quickly resolved.
In the event the OASI Trust becomes insolvent how will that affect your retirement plan? Very soon the federal government will have to take action and make significant changes so that Social Security Administration can continue benefit payments in full. Knowing that the government historically privatizes gains and socializes losses the brunt of the financial burden may well fall to individual Americans.
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