I hawk, I hawk, I continue to hawk.
....Allow workers to opt into a partially privatized system, where of their 7.65% FICA expenditures, 5% goes into a private TSP-style account; and the Employers match follow the same. the remaining 2.65% (or, when you count the match, 5.3%) will go straight into SS, but it will be revenue for which SS will never see a liability. the cost for opting out is that part of your pay continues to go to pay for others, but the upside is that you get a combined total of 10% of your annual income going into a retirement account that belongs to you, and grows tax-free. Social Securities' revenues will instantly drop, but nowhere near as severely as their liabilities. To ensure solvency in the adjustment period (and to make it politically palatable); lift the cap. We can lift the cap on only the worker (and not the employer) if we want to encourage job-creation; or lift it on both if we need the revenue to ensure solvency, or if that's the only way to get the thing passed; here is room for compromise wiggling. Higher paid workers will see more of their money leave in the form of taxes, but those making less than $604,000 will get back even more in the form of ownership of personalized accounts (assuming the employer cap isn't lifted, and that's not figuring for the added benefit of those accounts growing tax-free), and so they will be willing to make the trade. Perhaps another compromise point would be to raise the cap to $604K. Poorer workers can either spend their lifetime building far more wealth than they ever would have seen under Social Security if they are younger, or keep the guaranteed program benefits if they are older.
ta-da! the American people and the Government are left better off.
how much better off?
welllll, let's do a quick example:
Joe graduates High School and goes to work, making 25,000 a year. Not anyone's idea of incredible pay, but there you are. Joe gets' a 2% raise every year to account for his increasing talent, experience, etc. The 10% of his income goes into a mix of funds that matches the S&P 500 Combined Annualized Growth average since 1982: 7.98% (after you account for inflation). If Joe retires nice and early at 62; his retirement fund will be worth $1,030,110, and if placed into an annuity / conservative account that generates a 5% annual return, his monthly benefit will be $4,292. That would be slightly less than his last monthly paycheck of $4,979; but still quite livable. If Joe works until he's 65, his monthly benefit will climb above his monthly income to $5,473; and if he decides (as most of us probably will) to delay retirement to 68, he's looking at a monthly retirement check of $6,966.
And remember, Joe isn't exactly one of society's higher paid workers.
But he also had the advantage of time. Let's say instead Joe went to two years of college, and got an associates before entering the workforce to earn that 25,000; and let's say that instead of 2%, Joe turns out not to learn new skills that well, and his annual raise above inflation is actually 0.5%. We're stacking the deck a little against ole Joe, but he still seems to come out okay; his monthly benefit at age 62 is $3,050; at age 65 it's $3,875; and at age 68 it's $4,915. It's worth noting that under this model, the most Joe ever made was $31,672 in a given year; and that his monthly retirement benefits at age 65 represents a $1,200 monthly pay increase over his monthly income. Even if Joe retires early at 62 he will have more in income off of his account than he would from working; and the longer he chooses to keep working, the greater, obviously, his return is.
AND ALL THIS WITHOUT COSTING OLE JOE A SINGLE RED CENT. since the money was cash he was losing to taxes in the first place, his take-home pay wasn't reduced one iota; but because we partially privatized social security, Low Income Worker Joe can retire a millionaire.
OR, if he didn't want the 'risk' of the marketplace, he could have chosen to stay with regular social (in)security. average monthly payout: about $1,100 dollars. or, roughly 1/3rd of what Joe made in our worse case scenario at age 65.
BUT WAIT!!! WHAT IF THE MARKET TANKS!!!
Markets recover. If the market tanks right as Joe was planning on retiring, he can work for an extra year while it rights itself, or simply choose to draw less from the account in order to leave more in there to ride the upswing. OR, if Joe makes the worst decision possible, at the worst time possible and withdraws all of his money while the market is at the low point on the trough (say, a 40% drop, similar to what we just saw), to purchase a 5% annuity... then his monthly income in our worse-case scenario at age 65 will still be more than twice what he could have expected from Social Security....
points worth noting is that you may still have to slowly raise the retirement age to 67 as this takes effect.