Social Security

Social Security refers to a set of benefit programs established and run by the federal government. The Social Security program is commonly identified with old age or retirement benefits and with disability benefits. The program was created in 1935 as part of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal initiative. Medicare and Medicaid are also social insurance programs established and administered by the federal government, but they are separate from Social Security. Social Security is a “pay-as-you-go” entitlement program. This means that current tax revenue is used to support current beneficiaries. In other words, there are no assets set aside to fund future benefit payments. When combined with demographic trends (i.e. an aging society), the pay-as-you-go funding approach is a feature that brings into question the sustainability of Social Security. Currently, Social Security is funded largely through payroll or “FICA” taxes which are a blend of employee and employer contributions that come from taxes on the wages of workers and the self-employed. Whether you’re employed or are self-employed, Social Security taxes amount to 10.4% of earnings, with the applicable earnings capped by a ceiling that is adjusted every year. The earliest age to get retirement benefits is 62, but the longer you wait, the higher the benefits. The average Social Security benefit in January 2012 is $1,229 per month. Social Security benefits are inflation-adjusted with increases pegged to the consumer price index (CPI). Social Security is the sole source of retirement income for 22 percent of beneficiaries, and the program is the majority (greater than 50 percent) source of retirement income for 66 percent of beneficiaries.

The Best Financial Planning Resources are Affordable and Far Removed from Wall Street

Laurence Kotlikoff is a Professor of Economics and Boston University. Professor Kotlikoff is one of the nation’s leading experts on fiscal policy, national saving and personal finance. 

Professor Kotlikoff is the author or co-author of 15 books and he publishes extensively in newspapers, magazines and blogs on issues of personal finance, financial reform, taxes, Social Security, healthcare, deficits, generational accounting, pensions and insurance.

Kotlikoff’s most recent book is...


Research Questions Role of Asset Allocation in Retirement

Research from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College suggests that asset allocation is a relatively ineffective factor in creating a secure foundation of retirement income . The research examines and compares the effectiveness of a handful of levers that have the potential to contribute to a solid foundation of retirement income. Among the levers or contributing factors considered are: Asset Allocation Working Longer A Reverse Mortgage Spending Less The various retirement income...

Mark Warshawsky on the Retirement Income Market

Mark J. Warshawsky is Director of Retirement Research at Towers Watson.

Dr. Warshawsky served as assistant secretary for economic policy at the U.S. Treasury Department from 2004-2006 and he has held senior level economic research positions at the Federal Reserve Board, the Internal Revenue Service and...

SOA Offers Consumer-Oriented Content for Retirement Decisions

The Society of Actuaries (SOA) just published a series of short whitepapers or “briefs” that focus on some of the major decisions that are encountered by retirees. This is a great resource for consumers who are seeking objective content produced by experts. The Society has clearly made efforts to create content that is accessible to a non professional audience. The briefs are clear, short and focus on consumer -relevant topics such as “when should I retire.” There are 11...

Treasury Department Focuses on Longevity Risk with Retirement Income Guidance

The Treasury Department just released a proposed set of regulations that could have a meaningful impact on the retirement income market in the U.S.

The Treasury’s guidance package builds on feedback received in response to the request for comments issued by the Labor and Treasury Departments last fall.