Twenty days after the birth of a new year, we received a new president of the United States. And with this change, many Americans are closely watching the Oval Office to see what President Trump will do about many issues such as health care, the environment, foreign relationships, and the economy, just to name a few. One area that Congress and the president might be addressing in the future is Social Security. Regardless of your political views, Social Security is a mess and there are some key facts that we must be made aware of to determine how to best address the problems.
Social Security was signed into law by President Hoover in August of 1935. The society that Social Security was built for is not the society that we have today. First, the average human’s lifespan is now about six years longer than the lifespan of those who were receiving Social Security in the late 1930s. Additionally, not only are people in today’s society living longer, but they are also retiring earlier. The increased amount of time that Americans currently spend in retirement, in addition to their increased lifespans, only amplifies another fact that relates to Social Security’s issues. That fact is encompassed in a simple statement. Social Security costs much more to maintain than was anticipated. The Congressional Budget Office is projecting that by 2026, the United States will be about 21 percent richer than it was this past year. However, the estimated 850 billion dollars that we are estimated to gain between now and then will disappear as quickly as it came because 1.3 trillion dollars of it, yes you read that correctly, about 150 percent of our new found wealth, will be committed to paying out Social Security benefits. Therefore, rather than our countries’ increased wealth going towards our children, infrastructure, the national debt, or whatever else you feel your money and the government’s money should be going to, it will all, and then some, be going towards Social Security.
While it is essential for us to provide funds for those who are elderly and wishing to retire, think of it this way. For an average couple, it is estimated that, by the time the individuals retire, they will have received 1 million dollars of Social Security and Medicare benefits. In addition, millennials will be receiving about 2 million dollars of Social Security benefits throughout their retirement years when it comes time for them to begin receiving Social Security.
So, what are some potential solutions to the problems facing Social Security? There are several different fixes out there being discussed and each have reasons or justifications that boost their validity. One of the solutions discussed involves raising the retirement age. If this happens, the most likely option is to raise the retirement age for Social Security benefits to 70. Raising the age has already occurred before. Back in 1983, the age increased from 65 to 67 for people born after 1960. Another option is to cut benefits. Proposals for such cuts include doing a flat cut or a tiered reduction of benefits based on your income. Doing a flat cut of benefits would be a valid option because currently retirees are receiving more money from Social Security than the amount necessary for a family to live modestly in the United States, and this is not including a retiree’s savings.
If it were up to me, I would change the age at which people could start receiving Social Security benefits to 70 and I would make sure that this change started for those who were born in and after the year 1980. In addition, I would cut the benefits people are to receive by 15 percent. This cut would be across the board, for everyone and I could institute this in 2020.
Megan Nicole Miller is a graduating senior at Brigham Young University and will be attending law school over the next academic year