Perhaps “socialist insecurity” would be a more fitting name for the nation’s largest wealth transfer program, as there’s nothing social about it, and it hardly provides any security.
There was once a time when retirees could expect a healthy return on their investment in social security, simply because there were more workers per retiree to support the pyramid of payments. Originally the plan was sold as “retirement insurance,” or “old age survivors insurance” as it was officially called. The retirement age for social security has remained unchanged from the 65 years of age from when it started. The average lifespan in 1935 was a mere 61.7 years, meaning the average person couldn’t expect to receive social security.
With the average lifespan pushing 80 now, without a corresponding rise in the age to receive benefits, that’s naturally created some solvency issues for the program.
By 2011, research from the Urban Institute found that retirees could expect to expect a negative return in their investment. According to their figures, “a married couple retiring in 2011 after both spouses earned average income during their lives paid total Social Security taxes of $598,000. They can expect to collect $556,000 in benefits, if the man lives to 82 and the woman lives to 85.” And given that the average lifespan for men and women is lower than 82 and 85 respectively, the negative return on average is worse than advertised.
So what’s a better alternative? Simple: Let people save for their own retirement like most already do. Here are the statistics on how much wealthier the average retiree would be in absence of Social Security -and the figures are striking.
But what about those with no investment acumen? Rather than privatizing Social Security outright, an option to opt-out of the program could be a viable alternative.
Then again, even the world’s worst investors should be able to outperform Social Security over the long run.
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All they have to do is break even.
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