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Tax Incentives for Retirement Saving are not Working. Can we Find a Better Way? (Part 2)

In a previous post in this series, I criticized proposals to raise the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare. It is already getting harder to save enough for a comfortable retirement; raising the eligibility age would just make it  still more difficult. In this installment, I turn to policies to encourage retirement saving, explaining why our current system is not working well and suggesting some alternatives.

Why should we make it easier to retire? Grasshoppers vs. Ants

We can start by asking why making it easy to retire should be an objective of public policy in the first place. The fable of the grasshopper and the ant is the lens through which many people view the issue. The ant works hard and saves carefully all summer, while the grasshopper sings and dances. When winter comes, the grasshopper begs for a handout. The fable portrays the ant as justified in shutting her door to him. Why should the government, as agent of the ant-like taxpayers that pay its bills, behave any differently toward grasshoppers who don’t have the self-discipline to save during their working years?

The most common response is to justify government support for retirement as a form of social insurance. Life is full of risks. For retirement saving, the relevant risks include spells of unemployment, health problems, the risk of losses or low returns on retirement savings, the risk of inflation, and last but not least, the risk of outliving one’s savings. When we take those risks into account, we understand that some people will reach retirement age without adequate savings not because they are grasshoppers, but because they are unlucky ants. Many of the risks that can thwart the best-laid plans for retirement savings are neither under the control of individuals nor privately insurable. Only the government is in a position to pool the risks broadly enough to guarantee a minimum level of retirement income for everyone.

At the same time, skeptics have a valid point when they warn against incentivizing grasshopper-like behavior. It is reasonable to want public policy to encourage people to save for their own retirement even while providing a safety net for those whose efforts fall short.

In the United States, the tension between providing a reasonable degree of social insurance and encouraging thrift has given us a two-part retirement policy that combines Social Security with tax-sheltered private retirement savings. Unfortunately, neither part is working well.

The future of social security

Social Security is one of the most popular government programs ever created, but it faces an uncertain future. As it stands now, Social Security is neither a real retirement savings program nor a pure social safety net. It is not a savings program in the sense that participants’ payroll taxes are not invested to fund their own retirement. Its trust fund, which consists entirely of special government bonds, is only an accounting device. What we really have is a system under which those currently working pay for those who have already retired. That worked reasonably well as long as the elderly dependency ratio was low, but it has come under strain now that the ratio is rising, as shown in the following chart.

At the same time, Social Security is not a pure social safety net. People with fewer than 10 years of work usually receive no benefits. For those who have worked long enough, benefits increase with contributions. There is some progressivity built into the system since the relationship of benefits to contributions is not linear, but even so, the highest benefits tend to go to the least needy. Furthermore, the progressivity of the benefit schedule is offset to a substantial degree by the regressivity of the payroll tax that pays for the benefits. As the next chart shows, the payroll tax has been taking a steadily increasing share of the income of households in the lowest quintile of the income distribution, in contrast to the income tax, which has been taking a decreasing share.

Raising payroll taxes to meet increasing Social Security outlays no longer seems feasible. Most recent reform proposals have, instead, concentrated on reducing benefits. Raising the age of eligibility for full benefits, for reasons explained in the preceding post, would make the system more regressive. Changing the formula for calculating cost-of-living increases would gradually reduce benefits for all participants. Means testing of benefits for high-income participants would make the system more progressive. If the minimum benefit were raised by enough to bring recipients up to the poverty level at the same time that payments to higher-income beneficiaries were reduced, Social Security would start to look more like a real social safety net.

Whatever reforms are adopted, one thing is virtually certain. The trend toward increasing dependence on individual retirement savings will continue for most middle-class families.

Why tax incentives for retirement saving have failed

Today, the principal policy for encouraging retirement savings is to shelter them from taxes. Employer contributions to pension plans are subject neither to corporate nor individual income taxes. Individual contributions to 401(k) plans, Individual Retirement Accounts, and similar plans are tax deductible as they are made, and earnings on invested funds accumulate free of taxes. Pension benefits are subject to income tax when they are eventually paid out, but recipients are often in lower tax brackets by that time.

Taken together, preferences for retirement savings are one of the largest tax expenditures in the Federal Budget. The Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center estimates that the immediate, direct revenue loss associated with contributions to IRAs and 401(k) plans will exceed $1 trillion over the decade beginning in 2011. That figure is the product of contributions multiplied by the applicable marginal tax rate. A more sophisticated estimate of the cost by the American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries suggests that the direct revenue loss, as calculated by the Tax Policy Center and others, overstates the true costs by as much as a third to a half, but even half a trillion dollars still makes a very large dent in the budget.

Unfortunately, tax preferences do little to increase retirement saving. Three factors undermine their effectiveness.

  • As noted by William G. Gale of the Tax Policy Center, about three-quarters of taxpayers are subject to income tax rates of 15 percent or less. As a result, the very households who are most likely to have inadequate savings at the time of retirement gain little or nothing from the deductibility of retirement saving.
  • Taxpayers in higher brackets have a larger incentive to contribute to 401(k) and similar plans. However, studies cited by Gale have found that the contributions of those higher-income households are much more likely to represent a reallocation into tax-preferred plans of funds they would have saved in any event.
  • As inflation has slowed, the benefit of tax-deferral of earnings on retirement plan contributions has decreased. For example, suppose the nominal interest rate is 8 percent and the inflation rate is 6 percent. For a household subject to a 25 percent income tax rate, the after-tax nominal interest rate would be 6 percent, just equal to inflation. That would make the after-tax real interest rate zero, compared with a tax-free nominal rate of 8 percent and a tax-free real rate of 2 percent. If the inflation rate falls to 2 percent and the nominal interest rate to 4 percent, the after- tax nominal rate is 3 percent, for an after-tax real rate of 1 percent. Meanwhile the tax-free real interest rate would remain at 2 percent. These are only illustrative numbers, but whatever the specifics, if we assume the before-tax real interest rate remains unchanged, slowing inflation reduces the relative attractiveness of tax-sheltered retirement plans.

In short, the present policy of encouraging private retirement savings by sheltering them from taxes is expensive but ineffective.

Two better ways to encourage retirement savings

There should be better ways to encourage retirement savings, and there are.

One idea, discussed by Thomas Gale in the paper cited above, would be to replace the current tax deductibility of contributions with a flat-rate credit. He describes the proposal as follows:

First, unlike the current system, workers’ and firms’ contributions to employer-based 401(k) accounts would no longer be excluded from income subject to taxation, contributions to IRAs would no longer be tax-deductible, and any employer contributions to a 401(k) plan would be treated as taxable income to the employee (just as current wages are). Second, all qualified employer and employee contributions would be eligible for a flat-rate refundable tax credit, given to the employee. Third, the credit would be deposited directly into the retirement saving account, as opposed to the current deduction, which simply results in a lower tax payment than otherwise. . . . Contribution limits would not change. Earnings in 401(k) plans and IRAs would continue to accrue tax-free, and withdrawals from the accounts would continue to be taxed as income.

Gale proposes a 30 percent rate for the tax credit. A 30 percent credit would give the same incentive as a tax deduction for someone in a 23 percent tax bracket. For such a person, the after-tax cost of adding $100 to a retirement account would, under either the credit or the deduction plan, be $77. The tax credit would give a greater incentive than a deduction to people in tax brackets below 23 percent. That is just what we want, since those are the people now most likely to have inadequate savings when they reach retirement. For people in tax brackets above 23 percent, the incentive from the tax credit would be less than from a deduction. That is fine, because their contributions to tax-favored retirement accounts are more likely to be reallocations of existing saving than new saving.

According to Gale’s calculations, a 30 percent tax credit would be revenue-neutral compared to the current system of deductions. A credit at a lower rate would still provide some incentive to increased saving by lower-bracket households while increasing budget revenues compared to existing policy.

Alternatively, a second way to make it easier to save for retirement would be to reduce the risk and raise the return on funds invested in 401(k) and similar plans. A brief from the Center for Retirement Research cited in the preceding post lists falling real interest rates as one of the important barriers to successful retirement saving. The brief uses the chart reproduced below to illustrate the problem. The nominal interest rate on which it is based is that on bonds held in Social Security trust funds. Inflation is measured by the rate of change of the CPI for years up to 1991 and by 10-year inflation forecasts for later years. The real interest rate shown is the nominal interest rate minus the inflation rate.

How could the government reduce the risk and increase the return on retirement savings? One way would be for the Treasury to issue a special series of retirement securities—call them R-bonds, for short. The R-bonds would have the following properties:

  • They would be nonmarketable.
  • Like all Treasury bonds, they would be free of default risk.
  • Like Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS), their principal value would be adjusted to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index.
  • Unlike TIPS, R-bonds would pay a guaranteed real interest rate (that is, an interest rate in excess of inflation) of, say, 2 or 3 percent.
  • R-bonds could be held only in retirement accounts, with a limit on the maximum amount per individual.

Either a tax credit or R-bonds could increase the number of people who succeed in accumulating adequate retirement savings, but they would do so in different ways. A tax credit would work by increasing contributions to retirement accounts, but the accounts would remain risky. Depending on the market risks, default risks, and inflation risks to which a person’s retirement portfolio is exposed, the accumulated value at retirement age can turn out to be inadequate despite a lifetime of diligent saving. By reducing those risks, R-bonds, could increase the number of retirees who achieved minimally adequate savings even if they did not increase total saving.

Of course, if R-bonds ended up paying a higher rate of interest than ordinary Treasury bonds (as would likely be the case), they would increase the government’s interest expense. The increase could be offset by eliminating tax deductions for retirement contributions and taxing interest on retirement accounts. By adjusting the guaranteed real interest rate and the maximum amount of bonds per person, R-bonds, like tax credits, could be introduced in a way that was either revenue neutral or revenue enhancing.

Like tax credits, an R-bond program could be designed to increase retirement saving incentives for lower-income households while reducing the incentive of higher-income households to divert existing saving into tax-privileged accounts. The incentives and budget impacts could be fine-tuned further by using tax credits and R-bonds in combination.

Toward a secure, equitable, and affordable retirement policy

The bottom line is that the U.S. retirement system, as it exists, is neither secure nor equitable even as the stress it places on the federal budget increases. We can do better, and we should.

We should do better because there is an important public purpose in protecting citizens against unavoidable and privately uninsurable risks that can thwart the best-laid plans for retirement savings—the risk of losses or low returns, the risk of inflation, and the risk of longevity.

We can do better than the current combination of Social Security and private tax-sheltered savings plans. Social Security can be allowed to evolve toward a pure social safety net that provides poverty-level retirement protection for the neediest. Mechanisms such as tax credits directly deposited to retirement accounts or R-bonds with a guaranteed real return could substantially improve saving incentives, compared with the present system of tax deductions, without increasing the burden on the budget, or even decreasing it.

With a little imagination and the political will to act on it, we could end up with a retirement policy that is genuinely secure, equitable, and affordable.

 

22 Responses to “Tax Incentives for Retirement Saving are not Working. Can we Find a Better Way? (Part 2)”

EarthStarJanuary 25th, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Interesting idea but I don’t think the reason people in the lower income tax brackets aren’t saving in tax sheltered accounts is because they did the math and decided that they didn’t have enough incentive, but more likely they simply are living hand to mouth out of necessity without the ability to save. They also are likely working in jobs without access to employee offered tax sheltered accounts, and wouldn’t even know who to call to set up an IRA.

EdDolanJanuary 25th, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Very likely you're right for people really living from hand to mouth, but the literature on this does cite some experimental studies that show people in the middle do respond to better incentives.

ThomasGrennesJanuary 25th, 2013 at 2:45 pm

I may have missed something in both of the posts about how to pay for the unfunded
liabilities associated with Social Security. If age restrictions are not tightened and if tax
deductions or tax credits continue to be used, who will pay for the unfunded liabilities?
By default it must be future taxpayers. Won't future budget deficits be higher and won't the future government debt (properly measured) also be higher? If this argument is accepted, should one not argue that the (even larger) unfunded liabilities associated with
medicare and medicaid should be paid by general taxpayers. If these contingent liabilities are added to the narrowly defined government debt, the resulting sum becomes enormous and unsustainable in the opinion of many observers.

sierra7January 25th, 2013 at 3:19 pm

We have already decided to "destroy" the incentives to "save" as a (direct) indirect result of the 2008 financial mess…..most retirees are getting crushed by almost negative returns on their "safe" savings; less upcoming retirees (those still working) are making less money so they are continually getting squeezed by reduced wages, re-entering the workforce for less wages and mostly no benefits whatsoever; the ever increasing potential catastrophic health expenses; virtual free money being "bazookaed" into the financial system……
Where will all this end?
Not good.
The social idea of SS, fixed pensions, decent wages, universal health care….in my humble opinion would be a good step to try to build a progressive society; the way we think we can do so with our financial system is comical if not considered farcical.
Outright greed will not do it.
Too much discussion is about "cutting" benefits, raise qualification age, etc…..
What the heck is wrong with debating the crazy "defense" (war) budget this country is entangled in?
Without addressing the negative effects of our greedy financial system and using critical thinking applied to where we are going we will end up with more of a mess.
There is a difference between, "lifestyles" and quality of life.
Unfortunately we have not been able to see that difference.
To think we are going to return to the days of 2000-2006 have to be absolutely stupid.
So, we have to find a better way.
Living as a "community" will be the answer……….no other.
I'm so sick an tired of reading and listening to talking heads wanting to solve the problem by just throwing ordinary people under the bus.

EdDolanJanuary 25th, 2013 at 3:22 pm

You are right that a complete analysis of the government's balance sheet has to include unfunded liabilities like Social Security. If we view SS is a pay-as-you-go system, which I think is the right way to look at it, all future benefits are, effectively, unfunded and no one can pay them but future taxpayers.

In my view, there are ways to make the retirement system more secure, more equitable, and more affordable all at the same time. Doing so would require three things.

1. Reduce total benefits, but do not do so in ways that are regressive, as an increase in the eligibility age would be. Instead, I would advocate some kind of means testing of benefits for higher-income households with some but not all of the saving used to raise the lowest level of benefits closer to the poverty level.

2. Replace the current costly and ineffective system of tax preferences with more targeted incentives like tax credits or R-bonds that would make it easier for lower and middle-income tax payers to accumulate adequate retirement savings. As pointed out in the post, by adjusting the parameters of the incentives, they could provide greater saving incentives at a lower cost to the budget than the current system of tax preferences.

3. Use microeconomic tools to attack inefficiencies in our health care system along a broad front in order to improve the quality of care an reduce costs for both the working-age population an retirees.

HeckerJanuary 25th, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Would capping the Social Security benefit any person or couple could receive be a financially feasible alternative to means testing? It might be more feasible, politically, since people at all income levels (incorrectly) believe they have earned Social Security benefits. And this way, everyone still could get some. Probably wouldn't save enough money though.

dwb3January 25th, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Offhand i don't see the reason R-bonds need to solely be placed in retirement accounts. R-bonds are essentially going to be a flavor of floating rate notes, where the floating rate (and possibly like TIPS the principal) is adjusted to guarantee a pre-tax real rate of return. I have to mull over the macro implications of these bonds since during a recession, when real rates are low or negative, people will want to pour money into them (and conversely during a boom). That might have some counter productive macro effects (increased savings during a recession).

There will need to be a market for these whether they are locked up in retirement accounts or not – so that the net asset value can be computed (and, so that they can be redeemed or sold on retirement or death). If they are sold during a recession they ought to command a premium, since real rates are low or negative, so I am not sure how you address that. If only the government can buy/sell these to individuals than you will have a large liquidity premium.

Another, related, idea would be portfolio insurance. Pension funds and annuity insurance managers buy/sell annuities or insurance that guarantee a *minimum* investment return (but not a maximum). This works a little different – its a guarantee that you will earn a *minimum* of, say, 2%, but the upside is not determined (essentially, a call option on asset returns). Risk managers who have sold such an option hedge it with a blend of stocks and bonds and charge a premium (the fair option price, plus cost of capital and profit etc). Now, the govt has very low cost of capital and does not need to earn a profit, and nearly infinite balance sheet, so they would be so very competitive in this market, so competitive they would drive insurance companies out of it. Insurance companies hedge with stocks and bonds, but since tax revenues are already extremely procyclical, i doubt the govt would need to do anything.they just need to make sure they collect enough revenue during booms to pay make the payouts during the bust years. Again, the return guarantee during a recession has some counterproductive macro implications…

oh, and you failed to mention (or maybe you did and i missed it)… sure we could incentive savings, but there is also taxing consumption… which i know is politically impossible but deserving of an honorable mention IMO.

EdDolanJanuary 25th, 2013 at 7:49 pm

You raise some very good points. It sounds like you know more about some of these issues than I do. Here is the basis for my thinking.

1. My idea is that R-bonds would be subsidized in the sense that they would not only be safe but would return an average interest over an extended period that was higher than the after-tax real interest on ordinary bonds. If so, the number issued would have to be restricted or else they would drive all other government bonds out of the market. We would Unlike TIPS, they would not be just one more way for the government to manage its debt, but rather, would explicitly be an element of social policy. As such, we would not want to make them available to other investors.

2. I don't see that R-bonds would have to be marketable in order to be redeemable on retirement or death. The government would just pay out their face value plus accumulated inflation adjustments and interest, same as they do with EE bonds (as I understand them).

3. I don't know much about portfolio insurance, but it sounds like a reasonable concept that would accomplish the goals of incentivizing saving and reducing retirement risk. I would have not objection of adding it to the list of policy options along with tax credits and R-bonds.

PeteJanuary 26th, 2013 at 10:37 am

The more complicated the system the more the people with a lot of resources can game the system. (mostly the wealthy)

In a modern society it is almost impossible to save wealth in terms of tangibles. The best example is say a computer where they start to become obsolete the day you buy them. Oil is another example. It should for essentially economic reasons become obsolete but for political reasons we are holding up its value.

Who knows how much we will use gold in the future so gold is not the store of value.

So tangibles don't hold value.

But it is pretty clear with even the unwise policies we have today, economies are able to produce a lot more. This is because we invent new ways of doing the same old things.

So with modern economies products and need for raw materials will change rapidly but overall the economy will get better. 99.99 percent of us are not smart enough to predict the winners and losers accurately. Sure if you have a large staff of analyst you will do better in general than a small staff of analyst or just yourself.

So retirement accounts are really just forms of a tax system in which you put your money in
and it gets transferred to the wealthy. It appears to some you get back more but that is just
because you were paid so poorly in the first place.

So the fair and economically useful system is to allow people to own production shares of the economy a GNP share. If you want to be more diverse a world GNP share. Then if the future world does well you do well and if it doesn't you don't. That is pretty much the way it is now except now if the world does well the rich do well and you still don't, plus the rich don't care how the world does.

So how many world shares do you get. Well some basic level plus how much the world thinks your worth which is pretty much based on your job and your willingness to defer consumption now and the desire of some other party to have consumption now.

Is this not just standard econ 101 without the tricks?

Bryan WillmanJanuary 26th, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Doesn't this all skip two very real problems?

First, if the real rate of return on savings (and investment) is negative or lower than the growth in required "surplus available to support the retired", then the whole thing is doomed regardless. That is, having every household save a lot of money will do no good if the real output of the futue economy is inadequate. This means that policies that contribute to growth in real capacity are essential, at least until the baby boom lump is no longer straining social security.

Second, since social security is really transfer payments to mostly not-well-off people, rather than anything like "savings" or "vesting" – it means that all of that money is spent on current consumption. Current consumption is of course the basic point of the economy, but these large transfers that people sometimes "think of" as "savings" aren't, and so the total real savings (investment in maintence and expansion of real capacity) is very low.

So we have too little savings, and what we do have is generating very poor returns. If this does not change, it will not end well.

Bryan WillmanJanuary 26th, 2013 at 5:18 pm

One other issue – the post and some of the comments clearly take the side of "the poor". Fair enough as that was originally the main point of SS.

But rather than talking about transfers to help the less-well-off, either in their working years or in their later years, why do we never talk about systems to transform them into being well off? (Or least better well off?)

Given that SS payments are driven by life employment history, and that seems politicaly unchangeable, wouldn't driving down unemployment and driving up employability of citizens be the big win? (It's not clear to me how to do this – but I feel quite certain that U6 unemployment at 5% rather than 14% would bode much better for both the public fisc and for individuals.)

If someone cannot development themselves to earn a decent living, or find such a living after their efforts, promising them somewhat better SS retirement benefits seems very hollow.

I do not claim to know how to do this, or at least, a politically feasible way to do it. But it does seem one of the very core issues for public and social policy.

dwb3January 27th, 2013 at 12:35 pm

if you've ever had a variable annuity you've essentially had portfolio insurance. http://www.sec.gov/investor/pubs/varannty.htm#hva…

Portfolio insurance guarantees a *minimum* return (over some extended time frame) but not a maximum (sometimes this is phrased as a minimum payout, or as a series of payouts over time like an annuity – but because of the time value of money these are equivalent). The premium you pay is invested in a portfolio of stocks and bonds (the % stocks vs bonds is a function of the accumulation timeframe … or can be designated by the purchaser).

So say that you have a portfolio of 40% bonds and 60% stocks, and the guaranteed minimum insurance payout is 3%. If the stock market goes up 10% and the bond market goes down 3%, your portfolio will return 4.8%. But if the stock market goes down 10% and the bond market goes up 3%, the insurance company essentially pays you 7.8% (the difference between the -4.8% return and the 3%, to guarantee a 3% return on the portfolio).

I am somewhat oversimplifying …variable annuities have fees, death benefits, tax benefits, and the payments are usually structured as annuities over a fixed time or until death. The central idea is the same tho. Insurance companies charge a lot for these products because they have a cost of capital and they can be hard to hedge, so they are taking a lot of balance sheet risk.

Govt sponsored port insurance would be sort of like having a 401k and the govt saying that they would guarantee a minimum return of x% on the 401k (likely, if you met some basic portfolio diversification criteria) … which clearly takes downside risk out of the portfolio and ensures a minimum payout proportional to portfolio size. As I said, the govt could do it significantly cheaper than insurance companies because they have an infinite risk-free balance sheet, and no fees.

EdDolanJanuary 27th, 2013 at 1:56 pm

I get you, I think TIAA offers some variants like that. Sounds like they protect the nominal return, though, and don't protect the real return against inflation. Still, that could be added.

John CardilloJanuary 28th, 2013 at 12:16 pm

For every $1 in savings there has to be someone willing to hold $1 in debt. If savings is going to be encouraged/increased, who will hold that added debt?

johnJanuary 28th, 2013 at 4:34 pm

I skimmed through the article and comments so I may have missed some key details. But my question is why don't we create incentives for employers to contribute or match employee savings? I think it is clear that middle class families are having a hard time saving enough for retirement even when they take advantage of tax incentives. I think employers have to take a greater role in retirement plans after many years of reducing their involvement. Could we encourage greater employer contributions by tying, say, the 401(k) match to deductions for deferred compensation for executives?

EdDolanJanuary 28th, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Employer contributions for 401(k)s can help, but even with the tax incentive we have now, uptake by workers is low. It appears many workers prefer cash compensation. I think that suggests it is workers who need greater incentives.

johnJanuary 29th, 2013 at 11:39 am

On the surface of your answer, I don't argue, but I would question two assumptions you make. One is that workers are able to save – I prefer cash compensation because I have bills to pay. The second is that it's an either/or question. Why not incentives for workers and firms? Thanks for the thoughtful piece, btw.

Michael MostovFebruary 2nd, 2013 at 7:16 pm

IMO, "Social Security" is an example of Orwellian Newspeak, I am glad that you've noted that it doesn't really provide safety net and benefits the most to those who need it the least. It seems that most of the attention is paid to the solutions that will make it solvent, and your blog post is the first article I've seen that touches upon how to make it fair.

1) SS doesn't pay any benefits to individuals who worked for less than 10 years. So if person worked for 9 years, Social Security effectively steals the money that this person has paid. I can't possibly understand how this arbitrary rule fits into the conceptual intent of the Social Security program.

2) Social Security doesn't guarantee minimum sustainable level of living to people who responsibly contributed to the system for 10+ years. In fact people who earned small SS benefit might be worse off than those who haven't contributed at all, because minimal amount of retirement income might either disqualify recipients from receiving other kinds of financial aid (public or private), or reduce the amount of such aid. At least such is the perception held by many people and the such is the word of mouth "financial advice" spread in the poorer neighborhoods. Many people who are uncertain of their long-term earning potential, intentionally decline "official" jobs, and prefer to work off books, specifically to avoid receiving SS benefits, and therefore retain their eligibility for other kinds of aid.
Of course, many Gov-t assistance programs are mis-designed to discourage people from finding "official" jobs, usually because assistance benefits are perceived as more valuable than small paycheck. Yet faults of Social Security are unique, in the way it discourages people from working, because they want to avoid the benefits!

3) With the looming projection that SS will run out of money before I reach retirement age, I can only perceive this program as fraud, a Ponzi scheme from which I can't opt-out. Any solution that delays the bankruptcy of Social Security shifts the problem to the next generation – Ponzi scheme cannot work indefinitely.

SimoneFebruary 19th, 2013 at 4:35 am

I understand that there has to be shift , but what i am reading does not make for inspiring reading , there has to be something that will help grab the attention of the "grasshoppers "

I cind of lean towards that way of looking at things and i think that if there was something that showed me and encourage a bit more then a bunch of stats it would make things easier

Oliver MarshallMay 9th, 2013 at 4:30 am

The question, "Why should we make it easier to retire?", shouldn't even need to be asked. Don't we all deserve to enjoy ourselves after working for decades on end?

Melody RosenbaumMay 22nd, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Ah, yes. The Ant and the Grasshopper. One of my favorite fables of all time. This is what I kept reminding myself whenever my friends tell me that I don't get to enjoy much at my age. What they don't know is that I am preparing for my future. A lesson my father taught me while he was still alive. Work while I am still young so by the time I retire, I would just relax and enjoy all the remaining days I have on Earth.

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