Did the government make a Social Security goof?

Academics warn that agency officials are using outdated calculations and have severely overestimated the money available for retirees.

By Bruce Kennedy Jan 8, 2013 12:32PM

Image: Social Security Card (Comstock)The fiscal cliff has been averted for the moment, and Congress is continuing its latest game of financial chicken with a new target in sight: the upcoming debt ceiling. But two academics say all this political brawling is taking attention away from another crisis looming on the nation's horizon: Social Security.


Samir Soneji is a demographer and professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, and Gary King is a professor of government at Harvard. On Sunday, the two boiled down their recent findings in an opinion piece for the New York Times.


According to King and Soneji, the Social Security Administration has grossly underestimated the money it needs for retiring Americans "to the tune of $800 billion by 2031, more than the current annual defense budget."


And if nothing is done, they say, the Social Security trust fund will run out two years ahead of current government predictions.


The professors say two major issues have led to these serious miscalculations.


The government’s forecasting methods for Social Security have barely changed since the program’s creation during the Great Depression -- "even as a revolution in big data and statistics has transformed everything from baseball to retailing."


And that outdated mode of forecasting, the professors note, has failed to take into account crucial factors about longevity -- especially the fact that Americans are living longer and healthier lives. Better treatment of cardiovascular diseases and a dramatic decline in smoking, they say, "are adding years of life that the government hasn’t accounted for."


The professors believe the nation faces some stark choices if Social Security is to be saved. Among the options they suggest are raising the retirement age to as high as 69 or 70, increasing payroll taxes, limiting annual cost-of-living adjustments and reducing benefits.


They also point to new research that suggests that retirement, while popular, may in itself reduce a person’s life span "by breaking lifelong routines and disrupting deep social connections." And with that research in mind, they wonder if retirement should be optional.


Given modern demographics and statistical analysis, professors Soneji and King think now is a great time to open a public debate about Social Security’s future. The constant political bickering in Congress may make this suggestion seem odd, they say -- but "the longer we ignore the problem," they warn, "the more disruptive any change will need to be to keep Social Security alive."


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996Comments
Jan 8, 2013 2:25PM
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Social security was set up to be a self sustaining program that was set up to allow for a minimum amount of retirement for people.  It has since been turned into a poor tax throughout the years following it became a way to increase revenue.  At this time there are many viable options the two I favor go like this.

Option 1:  The government pays back what they owe and social security continues and is never used as an extra source of funding.

or,

Option 2:  The government pays back what they owe and people are allowed to collect there benefits when they are to be paid up to the amount that they are owed matched against what they paid in and social security is cut.

 

If social security were cut I'd hope people would see a rise of around 2-3% in their pay as the company wouldn't incur their 6.2% portion either but that will probably not be the case.

Jan 8, 2013 2:24PM
Jan 8, 2013 2:22PM
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what ?? the scariest part of this article is that the people who are in charge of the finances of the United States can't count...... Why is this happening?????
Jan 8, 2013 2:21PM
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If they put back the money they stole from SS to fund other projects and pad their pockets we would have no problems.
Jan 8, 2013 2:21PM
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Why did you not post my comment MSNBC?  Afraid I may have struck upon a nerver, or worse yet, the truth?  Just proves you are in the pocket of the politicians. 
Jan 8, 2013 2:20PM
Jan 8, 2013 2:20PM
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RAISE THE AGE!!  70 is plenty early.  Get a life and off the idea of "drawing" money at the age of 62-69.......  70 is it!!!  Back to work!

 

Jan 8, 2013 2:20PM
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First we should force the politicians to talk about SS and have a plan to repay what was taken out of it by them. Reform and do not allow those who did not pay into it, collect from it. Have tighter checks on those who collect disability and do not deserve it, ( people who were temporarily disabled then collect it forever ) and that goes for the alcoholics and drug addicts who say they are disabled from their "disease". Lastly we should have no ceiling how much is paid into it by individuals and no one collecting a government pension should collect from it!
Jan 8, 2013 2:20PM
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what a couple of idiots, the government has been collecting SS from people to the tune of billions and have squandered it. Now these two guys say in order to save it we have to cut benefits, increase the age of retirement, limit cost of living increases.

 

The simple solution is to draw a line in the sand and state that you will no longer have SS, starting with whomever turns 18 in 2011. Then yes you will have to put money aside for the countless millions who have been supporting the system hoping for a return on their investment.

 

Seems like the right thing to do

Jan 8, 2013 2:17PM
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If the government had not stolen our contributed monies there would be enough in the social security fund.  With that being said the authors say retirement ought to be optional.  Well you guys with all the brains.  Retirement is optional now.
Jan 8, 2013 2:17PM
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"

They also point to new research that suggests that retirement, while popular, may in itself reduce a person’s life span "by breaking lifelong routines and disrupting deep social connections." And with that research in mind, they wonder if retirement should be optional".


Give   me a break      I retired  after   way too  many years working at a job when  I was expected to  perform  physically  as well as a 25 year old.  Got  points  off  when I could no  longer lift 50  pounds  from a stack  18  inches over  my head  and put  it back.   Not every  one  has a job where they can keep working till they  drop dead.   I wanted  to  spend time traveling, something you cannot do  in  most jobs.  If the  let you take  5 dyas  in a row  off you are very lucky.   Too  many   jobs today  will  fire you  if you get  an  age related  illness   or injury  due to  failing joints.  Most employers want you  out  by the time you  hit 50.  You want social interaction   work  is not the place for it,    church, hobby clubs, craft groups,  health/fitness  and family  should provide plenty   of interaction.
Jan 8, 2013 2:15PM
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They will say & do anything to get their grubby lil hands on our earned credit plan! They have a way to fund SS for another 75 years it involves the rich giving & taking (regarding their fair share) in relation to taxation & the fact that they don't use it anyway!

 

But the fact that they like to call it an ENTITLEMENT PROGRAM, I say un-entitle yourselves & give me back my money with interest (as it that would apply if I owed the government) & worry no more about me or my paid credits & those who think allowing these bas****o's who gave us such hits as DERIVITIES, SUBPRIME PREDATORY MORTGAGES & the heddge fund/money market Madoff's of the world if you think they have our best interest at heart I would try to sell you that bridge in New York, but I think it's gone! As or 401K's & pensions - they just become another private industry THANKS TO OUR REPRESENTATIVESECOMING HARLOTS OF BUSINESS!

Jan 8, 2013 2:15PM
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I think it is because so many are approved for disability social security - those people pay no federal taxes at all.  I know so many who get disability that are no more disabled then I am.  There is so much abuse.

Jan 8, 2013 2:15PM
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Raising the age to 69 or 70?  Hell's bells, you can't get a job after 50!  In order to save Social Security, they need to stop doling it out to people who never paid in and to kids.  What is it with giving Social Security disability to kids because they have ADHD - they are NOT breadwinners. People coming here from foreign countries are collecting Social Security -in fact there are lawyers who fly them in from Russia on planes and sign them up to collect even before the plane lands.  I know this thru my sister, a former govt. employee.  If you eliminate just those two - kids and non-paying elderly foreigners, the problems would probably be solved.  
Jan 8, 2013 2:14PM
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Yea,,,raise the age of retirement, knowing full well most people will die before they reach that age.  Just another chickensh** way of not giving back what most of us have paid into our entire lives.  If the f***ing government had left the SS fund alone, we would not be in this mess.  Our own government is going to be the downfall of this once great nation.   Hopefully , when that happens, there will be a few patriots left that will do the right thing and take down these pathetic a**holes who have orchestrated this disaster!
Jan 8, 2013 2:14PM
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how about if you nevere paid in you can not ever get anything out

stop the free loaders and abusers of the system

people on diswability for any reason that never pay in is wrong

 

Jan 8, 2013 2:13PM
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Thats fine, if people need to work longer... if their able. Don't make me walk into a store and see elderly people stacking shelfs and know their in pain/ Do something reasonable... like come up with mandates that sure, people over 65 can work if they need or want too but, make sure their not forced to overwork and die of a heart attack from it/  Mandate heavy labor to younger workers, ensuring lighter work for the elderly. Otherwise, what point is there in this? This can be fixed... if every one stops stealing, and it is stealing from the employees paying into social security and those in need of social security, to pay for wars, banks and pent houses for those not involved. Come on, get real for once. Do the correct thing, Congress, and close Social Security Funds from yourelfs, the banking systems of America and the military. Then there will be more then enough money as needed. M
Jan 8, 2013 2:13PM
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Ohh yea!  Way to go MESSNBC.  Your political censorship during the election made sure to praise the Court Jester Biden in his debate with a serious statesman, Paul Ryan, even as Mr.  Ryan tried to impress upon the American people the serious trouble SS is in, and he offered a plan to fix it.  Of course, MS=NBC wasn't impressed.  Now that you have your guys re-elected it suddenly has dawned on you that there is a.............................serious problem.  Duh.  Go ask the joker Biden how to fix it.
Jan 8, 2013 2:12PM
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Just give me back all the money I put in out of my paychecks without interest and I'll call it good. Because with interest, matching funds, and cost of living increases, it will cost a whole lot more.
Jan 8, 2013 2:12PM
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What is wrong .....where has all the interest gone. 1/2 the USA could have lived very well on
 
it.  Stop paying the person or persons keep track of this and fine them and not us.
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