There is a lot of debate about Social Security in the United States. The program’s funding and administration, as well as its long-term viability, are the subject of endless debate, despite the general consensus that it is an absolute necessity. But there are structural and economic reasons why Social Security will face difficulties in the future. In order to achieve its goals, Social Security must overcome a number of major roadblocks, as outlined below.
Interest Rates are low
High-interest rates benefit all savers, including the Social Security program. Bonds and other high-quality securities that pay interest are invested in the Social Security system. The Social Security program becomes more financially secure when interest rates rise. Although rates are expected to remain low for at least another few years if not longer, it appears that they will continue to be so for some time. If interest rates remain low for an extended period of time, the Social Security program will have to adjust its benefits accordingly.
Pensions that last longer
US life expectancy is increasing, which is generally a positive development. Longevity, on the other hand, is a death sentence in the world of Social Security math. As the Social Security fund is not an inexhaustible source of cash, more money is drained from the overall pool as a result of longer lifespans. This raises the likelihood that future beneficiaries will see a reduction in their benefits.
No End to the Recipients
In the midst of the Great Depression, Social Security was established. The program’s designers couldn’t have predicted that the Second World War would lead to a baby boom. Social Security is currently feeling the effects of the baby boom, with 70 million boomers expected to retire between 2010 and 2030. This is a massive increase in the number of Social Security recipients. Additional funds are required by the program in order to properly pay out these beneficiaries in accordance with the original formulas.
Due to a lack of employees
Social Security’s “too many beneficiaries” problem is mirrored by the “not enough workers” problem. The Workers-to-beneficiaries ratio is decreasing as a result of the baby boom’s impact on the system. There has been a dramatic decrease in workers per beneficiary in the past few years. Even if this ratio remains at 2.1, Social Security will be permanently underfunded if it continues to decline.
People with more money live longer lives
The fact that wealthier people tend to live longer, in part because they have better access to healthcare and white-collar jobs, is another issue related to the long-term care problem. Because Social Security benefits are based on a beneficiary’s 30 highest-earning years, the wealthy retirees receive higher benefits than the lower-income participants. More wealthy beneficiaries in the system mean benefits are paid out faster, which further drains Social Security reserves.
The Federal Reserve is the central bank of the United States
In part, the Federal Reserve is to blame for the low-interest rates that have persisted for so long. However, despite the fact that the Fed does not directly control market interest rates, it does set the federal funds rate, which many other rates are based upon. The Federal Reserve has stated that it intends to keep interest rates at or near zero through at least 2023. For the Social Security program, this is bad news because it relies on higher interest rates to meet its payout obligations.
Cannot Extend Its Reach
The Treasury Department has stated that the United States cannot grow its way out of its Social Security problem, despite the fact that higher economic growth results in higher net revenues. While the Treasury Department acknowledges that a stronger economy will help the program, it says that reforming the program now will lead to a more gradual transition to something more long-term. If the Social Security fund does not run out by 2041, drastic measures will have to be taken.
Contraction in the economy hurts
The pandemic of the coronavirus had a devastating effect on the economy, not just on workers and businesses. As a result, the Social Security program also took a hit. There aren’t enough workers contributing to Social Security because of the high unemployment rates expected in 2020 and the ongoing problem of long-term unemployment in June 2021. Social Security revenues have been dramatically reduced as a result of fewer workers earning a wage and paying payroll taxes. Although this “black swan” event is receding, payroll taxes are expected to normalize, nothing can make up for the lost payroll taxes during the pandemic.
Beneficiaries born in the year 1960 may encounter difficulties.
A rude awakening awaits those who were born in 1960 and plan to apply for Social Security benefits in 2022. Your benefits may be permanently reduced due to the lower wages paid in 2020 as a result of the pandemic due to quirks in the Social Security benefit calculation. If a 15% drop in the Social Security Administration’s measure of economy-wide average wages occurs in 2020, “a middle-income worker born in 1960 could have his annual Social Security benefits in retirement reduced by around 13%, with losses over the retirement period exceeding $70,000,” a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute says.
The Impasse in Congress
These structural issues with Social Security are not the only ones that need to be addressed. Even though politicians in Congress are always talking about how Social Security needs to be “fixed,” little has been done. Many ideas have been floated, such as raising the retirement age for Social Security, cutting benefits permanently, or raising the payroll tax. As of June 2021, there have been no major changes to Social Security.