In 1950, life expectancy at birth was about 67 years. In 2003, it was 80 years. That dramatic increase in life expectancy over a span of 50 years is less dramatic when we look at a comparison of life expectancy for a 65 year old. During that same 50 years, it had gone up only 3 years, from almost 78 years of age to 81 years of age.
Although less impressive in years, those three extra years of life equals 36 additional months of collecting Social Security and that’s one problem: old people getting older and continuing to collect Social Security.
The way to fix that problem is to have more workers contributing to Social Security. That’s the second problem. Not enough young people and we can blame parents for that. People are just having fewer kids, leaving fewer workers to pay for the old people continuing to collect Social Security.
How to fix that problem? Immigration. Relaxed immigration standards will allow more workers to come into the country and contribute to Social Security. That’s the third problem. Immigrants may require more social services than what they contribute in taxes and Social Security and eventually those immigrants will get old and start collecting Social Security themselves.
A 2006 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report projected that, by 2075, an average life expectancy for a 65 year old to be about 86.5 years of age. That’s an additional 66 months of Social Security payments.
The solutions to the relentless march of these demographic numbers are politically unpalatable so we can expect that our elected representatives will do everything else before finally adopting them.
First, expect retirement ages to increase. Older workers will not like that. Second, expect the Social Security contribution rate to increase. Workers of all ages will not like that. To avoid their anger, politicians will “soak the rich” by increasing the amount of income that is subject to Social Security tax. Those in the upper income brackets get far less in return for what they contribute and they can expect to pay more and get less. Third, expect Social Security payments to decrease or to increase at a slower rate. Retired people vote and they will not like that.
These are the fun facts of the future. Maybe the “Future Fairy” will take away these problems and leave us a quarter.