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Finally: Somebody in Congress Wants to Fix Social Security

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

February 10, 2019 — If you have been reading this Blog for awhile you know that fixing Social Security is one of our pet issues. In 2034, if nothing is done, the system will start to fail the millions of Americans who are counting on Social Security for their retirement. Yet prior to last week, no politician we know of had done anything to get the reform process going.

“The Social Security 2100 Act” was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate in late January. Representative John B. Larson, a Democrat from Connecticut, is the sponsor, and he has 200 lawmakers supporting it. As written, the bill has several interesting features, most of which we approve. It would be the most significant reform of Social Security since 1983.

  • Across the board benefit increase of about 2%. While this might be controversial, it would help many of the 63 million Americans who now rely on Social Security get by in retirement. Some 80 million are expected to receive it in the next 10 years. For someone with a full retirement age of 66 and receiving the maximum benefit, the increase would be about $78/month.
  • Increase the annual cost of living amount. This feature attempts to recognize that older Americans are paying more for their health care.
  • Decrease the amount of Social Security benefits subject to federal income taxes. About 12 million beneficiaries would see those taxes go down.
  • Increase payroll taxes. The amount of payroll subject to Social Security would rise from 12.4% to 14.8% over a 24 year period. This is obviously the most controversial and costliest, part of the bill. For a person making $50,000 a year the total increase (2.4%) would be $1000/year, half of which would be paid by the employer.
  • Create a donut hole on amount of earnings subject to Social Security withholding. Earnings from the current limit of $132,900 and up to $400,000 would not be subject to Social Security withholding. Earnings over that amount would be taxed. This is the most creative feature of the bill – only the wealthiest of the wealthy would see this increase.

What is the reaction?

That depends a lot on your political party and interests. Most Republicans up to this point have argued that benefit cuts and increased retirement ages are the way to fix the problem. Presidential candidate Donald Trump promised he would “not cut Social Security”. Democrats are enthusiastic about the new bill, and with over 200 co-sponsors in the House, there is enthusiastic support from that side. Fox News reported on the bill but did not editorialize much, other to say what pretty much everyone else agrees with, that the bill has very little chance of passing in the Republican controlled Congress. AARP, on the other hand, doesn’t think the benefit increase is enough.

Some independent experts think that the bill seems like a good idea. That is mainly because the changes would put Social Security on a sound footing. As reported by the New York Time, Stephen C. Goss, the chief actuary of Social Security, believes it would make Social Security “able to pay all scheduled benefits in full on a timely basis” — for 75 years”.

Our bottom line.

We salute Rep. Larson and his colleagues for introducing this bill, which might fix a problem lawmakers have been sweeping under the rug for decades. There will be costs involved, but the plan seems reasonable. We encourage all of our Members to follow this issue and let your elected representative know your position on it.

Comments? Do you see a different plan that might work, or is this one OK? We want to see constructive comments, and hope not to get into political blame. Thanks

Further Reading:

Posted by Admin on February 9th, 2019

51 Comments »

  1. The bill is probably a good starting point to get the debate going. What I like: changing the index used to compute the cost of living increase to reflect how the elderly spend their money (the increasing cost of health care and prescription drugs); reducing/eliminating taxation of SS benefits (I never understood why Federal and state governments would tax a benefit meant to keep the elderly out of poverty); gradually raise SS earnings taxes over time.

    What I don’t like or understand: The 2% across the board increase. Would this be a one-time thing for those currently receiving benefits or some kind of permanent adjustment to the SS benefits formula? If just a one-time thing, there is a question of fairness for those not currently eligible for benefits. There is also a question of fairness regarding the donut hole proposal. Because SS was created to keep the elderly and disabled out of poverty, I would favor keeping the current formula that provides an upper limit on wages subject to SS taxes AND impose a means test for the wealthy who would receive something from SS but not the full entitlement under the current formula. They contributed to SS so they should receive something back but they don’t need SS to keep them out of poverty. Maybe a return of their contributions would be the right way to do this.

    Let’s get this discussion started in Congress. Although I and my spouse are covered by pension plans and we don’t have to rely on SS, none of our children have pension plans. It is shocking how many people have little or no savings and either have no 401k plans or don’t make effective use of them. Many are going to be relying almost entirely on SS benefits to survive in their old age. This is a huge crisis in the making and we need to be thinking about how to address it now before it is too late.

    by LS — February 10, 2019

  2. I am still working and self employed. I don’t have a company pension and do contribute to retirement savings on my own so the future of SS for me is a concern. This bill is a great starting point to get the ball rolling.

    by DS — February 10, 2019

  3. What a great start. I am self employed in the construction industry and even though I have retirement savings acct. SS will be important to me and millions of others.
    I found it amazing that the previous administration spent millions of dollars on a SS Reform report and did nothing with it. It is about time that someone is doing their job and trying to do the right thing for the American people and not just worried about their own hides.
    I for one will be happy to pay a little more on my end to ensure the SS program will be solvent in the future. Now if we can just figure a way to put Congress on SS instead of their private pension then it will get fixed

    by DS — February 10, 2019

  4. Also, a 2% increase of benefits for people receiving less than $1000 per month doesn’t amount to much of a difference. I believe everyone should receive at least $1200 per month so that they won’t have to rely on other govt assistance such as SNAP….

    by Babyboomer1955 — February 10, 2019

  5. Sorry Admin, but “the plan seems reasonable” – really?

    The legislation as understood would phase in a combined Social Security payroll tax rate that would reach 14.8 percent, up from today’s 12.4 percent. Thus the 200 co-signers are now proposing a top marginal tax rate of 65-66+ percent (i.e. top federal income tax rate 37 %, Medicare payroll tax 2.9 %, and top state income tax rate {i.e. California’s, 13.3%}).

    14.8 + 37 + 2.9 + 13.3 = 68%?

    In contrast to the side whose continuing rhetoric claims that the tax increases would only fall on plutocrats, the payroll tax is paid in on every paycheck by every single person with a job. The bill’s sponsors seek to hike this tax because they know that there’s just not enough money in their “wealthy-only” ‘tippy-top’ tax increases rhetoric.

    But even combined tax rates as excessive as actually shown above aren’t even close to enough to pay for all the proposed expansions to social programs those on the specific side are pushing. This tax hike would ONLY be enough to shore up ONE broken program, Social Security, but it doesn’t fix the flood of red ink in Medicare, let alone pay for the estimated $42.5 trillion price tag of democratic socialism.

    Take a guess what might happen to the economy if it’s actually better for rich folks to not work at all due to confiscatory high taxes and live well somewhere else.

    Editor’s comment: To each his own. For those interested in finding out facts about how this bill would affect the health of Social Security we recommend this analysis from the Social Security’s Chief Actuary.

    by Rich — February 10, 2019

  6. DS – Since 1983, all new members of Congress have paid into Social Security. They also have the option to participate in the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) to which they must also contribute. They also have a 401k type plan to which they can contribute (Thrift Savings Plan) which also has some Government matching.

    by LS — February 10, 2019

  7. Well something has to be done with SS but this plan, while a start looks like a giant band aid. I’d suggest a multi prong attack; Reduce the number of people collecting SS by allow people to delay taking SS beyond 70 and continue to increase the amount they will eventually collect each year they wait and for those who continue to work after full retirement age dont allow people to collect ss without a penalty and continue to withhold SS contributions. Have no limit on the wages subject to withholding, forget the donut hole. Allow high income people the option of taking a tax deduction equal to the amount they would collect in SS rather than taking SS (and remove the Alt Min Tax for them) , require those who collect SS disability to have the disability recertified every 2 years and to accept training for a different job so they can return to a job (and get off disability) even if not the one they were doing prior to the disability, and finally, plan to eventually phase out SS entirely by replacing SS for those under 28 with 80% of the SS withholding and employer part going into a self directed IRA type investment, the other 20% would go to a disability / life insurance program to cover those items that SS now does. Workers older than 28 would have the option to move into that new program with 80% of the funds they already contributed to SS being returned to the new account over several years. any shortfalls to SS while the program lasts will be covered by general funds.

    by Jean — February 10, 2019

  8. I think the doughnut hole thing is a bit nuts. Why? Just complicates things. Also do not believe Social Security benefits should be taxed. Seems like double taxation to me.

    by Linda — February 10, 2019

  9. I think the bill sounds like a reasonable place to start. Stretching the SS payroll tax increase over 24 years makes it less painful for those still working. And, if you think about it, $500 a year isn’t that much additional to contribute. It is money employees will get back when they retire, so it isn’t like Congress is asking everyone to just throw $500 a year away…

    As many others who commented before me are saying, it doesn’t fix everything, but we have to start someplace. If we sit back and just reject every plan on the basis that it doesn’t address this and that and something else, nothing will ever get fixed. Kind of like “Rome wasn’t built in a day” or how do you eat an elephant? (One bite at a time)

    The system didn’t get broken overnight and realistically, we can’t expect it to get fixed overnight either.

    by Brenda McGuire — February 13, 2019

  10. What was done before in raising the full retirement age was a good first step. There might be a few more options: eliminate the possibility of taking SS at age 62 unless you are disabled, or unemployed. And the spousal benefit. Never quite understood why if there was only one spouse working and thus one paycheck contributing to SS, there should be 1 and 1/2 benefits paid out. Particularly if as they say, all benefits will have to be reduced for all eventually. But cutting the benefits of those people who paid into the system for years and put money away each year into IRA’s, SEPS, Keoghs, etc instead of going on vacations, dining out, etc. should not be penalized with reduced benefits because they have saved enough for a comfortable retirement. .

    by suse — February 13, 2019

  11. I think all income levels should be taxed for SS. No exceptions, no donut holes. I like the COLA adjustment but should include the cost of groceries as well as health care. As I recall groceries, and fuel are not included in COLA. Although I may be mistaken. And no Federal income tax should be allowed on SS benefits….none. As the life expectances have progressively gone higher, I believe the minimum age for receiving SS should go higher. 62 as a minimum age should be raised to say 65, as well as all other age categories.

    by Jim Raney — February 14, 2019

  12. I think it is a good start, but I am not sure why we need the donut hole. I think that no matter what you earn you should be paying the social security tax.

    by George Sfiridis — February 14, 2019

  13. This solution has been brought up numerous times in the past. First time I heard it was from Ross Perot many years ago. The SS tax should be applied to 100% of everyone’s salary. No cap. If I had to pay on 100% of my earned income, so should everyone else. Period. That is the only fair approach, and that should keep SS solvent.

    by Helen Dawson — February 14, 2019

  14. I don’t want to get political, but a point of clarification.
    The earnings cap is directly aligned to maximum monthly payout. Just like the more a person paid in over their lifetime the higher their monthly payout. The maximum payout for 2019 at full retirement age is $2757.
    Remember, if you tax high earnings and they don’t receive some what the same benefits you feel your entitled to, we would create an entitlement program, and the argument I should receive what I paid in goes out the window. Thus the need for the donut hole.

    by Bruce — February 15, 2019

  15. It won’t affect our family. We will get increases in SS and our kids will be paying for it.
    The Ponzi scheme continues

    by Sal — February 15, 2019

  16. Since when do we have “Editor’s comments” It seems someone has an agenda.
    BTW. Suse: Good comment.

    by Goombah — February 15, 2019

  17. It seems to me the debate should be centered around, should the federal govt provide a national pension system to its citizens? SS was meant to be one leg of a three legged stool for retirement security. Alas the pension leg is essentially gone and the retirement savings leg has been ignored by many people ( yes I know for many legitimate reasons). The lack of retirement preparation seems that suggest that people want the govt to guarantee retirement income. Let’s call a spade a spade, or in this case, government run pension system. Let the political fireworks begin!

    by Mike L — February 20, 2019

  18. Regarding several comments, I believe it has been Congress that did not want to get involved with fixing Social Security, rather than the previous Administration. Why blame just Obama when no other president offered real changes? Thank God the GOP controlled Congress was not able to privatize Social Security, as they so desperately wanted to do. After the stock market crash of 2008, where would most recipients be if they had been in control of their own investments?

    I will receive my first check next month after having turned 66. I am one of the lucky ones because my husband and I have investments, three pensions and social security. We entered retirement with little to no debt and have lived below our means. I am not sure I could have worked to age 70, as my job as a teacher required standing for hours at a time.

    As for the comments about people needing to be constantly recertified for SSDI, or disability related benefits, I have to really take issue. Many adults such as those with intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, traumatic brain injury etc collect benefits on their parent’s records once their parents start receiving their social security. Making these folks recertifiy lifelong disabilities is too onerous and expensive for the families and would cost taxpayers needless money because of the need for ongoing evaluations of documentation. SSDI is not just paid to people who submit claims about injuries that prevent them from working.

    by Barbara. — February 20, 2019

  19. Mike L

    I agree with you. Pensions are largely gone and the people lucky enough to have them do not seem to understand the needs of those who were not so fortunate. It is easy to preach that everyone should save and invest, but in spite of that, many people are not able to. Others need their money now just to live. A pension plan usually takes a percentage out of ones paycheck and invests it or in many cases is not taken out of the paycheck and provided by the employer. Those who never had to save for their retirements have no clue how hard it is. The government allowed employers to eliminate pension plans which was one of the legs of the three legged plan. Social Security is going to be the mainstay of many people now and in the future. I am convinced that even if higher taxes were needed to pay for a health insurance program and a pension then one could breathe easier at the most vulnerable times of their lives knowing that these programs will be there for them. In the USA people should be able to age with dignity.

    by Jennifer — February 21, 2019

  20. From Maimi:
    I think Social Security should be changed so spouses who stay at home to take care of children don’t end up with zeros for all those years in their earnings record.

    Louise responded:
    Maimi, I am not in your shoes as far as raising children. I have none. I can see how it can be unfair to gain nothing in SS while raising children. Maybe SS administration could consider merging a husband and wife’s SS income so each gets 50% put into each year the one spouse stays at home. Not sure I would agree to 18 years of child raising but if they would consider up to 6 years that might be fair. Once that time limit was up, then the stay at home spouse should consider a job and add to their own SS account. Also, if the SS administration would agree to this, I would hope it would be mandatory and not an option. Some spouses might pressure the stay at home spouse to opt out. This would be another benefit of marriage and not living together.

    Just know that your children will have good memories of you staying home with them. My Mom stayed at home for a while then worked after that. I still remember things from when I was a little kid. Your children will not have those memories with your ex’s new model.

    by Admin — April 25, 2019

  21. How your representatives voted in these issues: https://retiredamericans.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/AFRA-Voting-Record-2018-UPDATE-2.pdf?link_id=1&can_id=f3a21a612b76369bf92e850acb9fbe40&source=email-is-your-representative-looking-out-for-your-interests&email_referrer=email_562026&email_subject=is-your-representative-looking-out-for-your-interests

    by Mike — June 13, 2019

  22. The NY Times gets on the bandwagon with us on this one: “Social Security is Looking at Its First Shortfall“.
    Welcome aboard

    by Admin — June 13, 2019

  23. As time goes on not much has happened to fix Social Security. This article provides a pretty good rundown of where all of the major Presidential candidates stand on trying to address the problem. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/07/business/social-security-2020-candidates.html

    by Admin — February 7, 2020

  24. As with all plans, good and bad, there is always the law of unintended consequences, which makes me very wary of any plans to “fix” SS, short of a way to phase it out totally. Things people forget: SS was NEVER intended to be the sole source of income, it was expected to be 30% at most with the rest covered by personal savings (there were few pensions back in the 1930s) and people weren’t expected to live more than a year or two after retiring. Since few people comply with what was expected when the Townsend Act was passed and SS started, the ponzi scheme that SS is should be phased out. Financial guy Ric Edelman has a “plan” that would give every child born in the US 7000 or 7500 that would be invested in a market instrument, after 30 years the initial amount would be repaid to the US Treasury and the amount left woud continue to grow until FRA at which time the estimate is that it woud be work close to a million. (I think he assumes average of close to 8 – 10% growth). Of course his idea doesn’t address the issues for those who have already been born but it is something to think about. As for those already in the system, raise the age for early retirement from 62 just as the FRA has been raised based on year of birth and allow people to defer taking SS with continued growth for as long as they want, ,not just to 70. People currently working should have a way to opt partially out of SS with contributions just to cover term life ins for survivor benefits and LTD insurance should they become disabled and a tiny amount to cover those currently collecting SS. The remainder would be required to go to an IRA that could not be touched or borrowed against until retirement. Schools also need to add basic financial “reality” education to their curriculum.

    by Jean — February 8, 2020

  25. This Bill looks good! We all must place social security in our constant watch …. Avoid the bait and switch politicians that create false crisis only to make changes begins our backs on issues truly affecting seniors!
    Social Security and Medicare are needed programs easily funded ! …

    by Ron — February 8, 2020

  26. Easily funded?! Medicare and Social Security account for 60% of the national budget! Just two programs consume almost 2/3 of our spending. More than 50 million individuals receive social security checks. Furthermore, these programs are supposed to be earned benefits whereby individuals contribute to them throughout their working lives and then redeem the benefits they earned when they retire. However, changes such as disability benefits and supplemental security income going to people who have not contributed to the program for an entire working lifetime, or even at all, have turned them more into welfare programs, with attendant deficits the inevitable result. Jean is exactly right: social security was never envisioned as the sole or even primary retirement income for an individual. Retirement funding was to be a 3-legged stool, with social security supplementing pension and savings. It is important also to understand that social security benefits are already skewed towards lower income beneficiaries. That is, individuals who pay more taxes into the program receive less in benefits relative to their contributions compared to those who put fewer dollars into the system. The fly in the ointment with most of the proposed changes by the Democratic candidates is to increase the cap subject to taxation, which would exacerbate this skewed distribution of income relative to contributions, or in some proposals, provide no additional benefits to those who pay more taxes. Where is the fairness in that? All that does is to make the program even less of an earned benefit program, and more of a welfare program. If you are going to make people pay more in taxes, they should receive more in benefits. The answer, as Jean suggests, is to continue the process begun during the Reagan administration of gradually raising the FRA age (and I think her idea of raising the early retirement age as well is a good one as well) so the discrepancy between the average life expectancy and retirement age is decreased to a more reasonable level. That likely won’t fix the whole funding issue, but it will certainly be a big step on the path to sustainability.

    by Partagas — February 8, 2020

  27. Just a legalized ponzi scheme if you ask me.
    They have no problem taking our money. Give us what was promised…. case closed.

    by Roger H — February 9, 2020

  28. As originally designed, Social Security WAS supposed to provide a relatively small supplement to a retiree’s income. You were generally going to get back what you paid in during the few years after you began SS, since life expectancy was considerably shorter back then. As has been mentioned, there once was the three-legged stool metaphor, but one of those legs – pensions – no longer exists except for a relatively small proportion of retirees.

    Social Security later began to shift to more of a “sharing” concept rather than a purely forced savings account when Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security (SSI) were added to the program. In my opinion, this was a good thing. In a properly functioning society, including a democracy, a certain amount of sharing of tax revenue is integral to the the concept of a viable liberal democracy, which most of the western world, including the US, has operated under for decades.

    Some of my SS payments while I was working did and are going to pay SS Disability and SSI payments, and I personally won’t receive the money I paid in to make possible such payments to others. But I understand and agree with that. I have been frugal and don’t necessarily need all of the money I previously paid into Social Security, so why shouldn’t it be shared with others less fortunate? I am not in favor of a massive redistribution of wealth, but an appropriately functioning society has to place some restraints on the acquisition of what might be deemed obscene wealth in order to be fair and equitable, and possibly to keep the masses from revolting. If this means requiring a small fee to kick in a more appropriate share of income to make life a little better for everyone else, I’m for that. That’s called a properly functioning society, not communism. And it’s what we should continue to strive for in the a United States, and in its Social Security program.

    by Clyde — February 9, 2020

  29. Louise, based on the status of today’s children, I still maintain that a parent who stays home to raise our children, should be given credit for all the zeroes those years represent in the Social Security calculations. We are now dealing with more children raised by strangers in group care which has resulted in higher rates of childhood depression and mental health issues, which ultimately hurt our country, cost more tax payer dollars, More children than ever have special learning needs with ADHD, depression, and anxiety the leading diagnosis. The changes to our society have burdened our public schools and our communities.. A parent should not be punished , but rather rewarded, for staying home to raise our future generations. Many women in our generation and me personally have a lot of zeroes for the time I stayed home to raise a family. Social Security now punishes parents for doing the right thing.

    by Maimi — February 9, 2020

  30. Partagas, your 60% is wayyyyy off. Its 38% FOR BOTH Soc Sec & Medicare.

    https://www.nationalpriorities.org/budget-basics/federal-budget-101/spending/

    by Pat Luftman — February 9, 2020

  31. I will be only supporting candidates that have promised to expand Social Security. I’m earning less than $1000 per month and wasnt able to have a large pension or 401 K. And yes for 5 years while being my mother’s full time caregiver I received 0s in my annual income report . Sorry if that bothers some of the higher income earners but there are many people in this same situation…

    by Mary11 — February 9, 2020

  32. Maimi, what would you propose instead of zero’s? If you do not work and get a paycheck where would the money come from to be calculated into your SS account?

    How many years would you stay home with your kids? Most corporations have maternity leave policies for both men and women. It can sometimes be extended by combining vacation time with maternity leave. It is never enough time but helps the child bond with the parents.

    They keep telling us to work till age 70 so a 35 year old woman going back into the work force would have 35 years in SS credits by age 70.

    I know plenty of couples and single parents who had to put their kids in daycare and they all turned out pretty normal, played all kinds of after school sports, got good grades and went to college. Then went onto good jobs.

    We all have to weigh what is good for each of us. Most would like to stay home but many cannot.

    by Louise — February 9, 2020

  33. Louise, I would suggest that as a society, we value a parent staying home to raise their children by changing the formula so that those years do not count for zero. Either change the calculation or give credit for their highest years for at least 6 years after each child is born. Women, especially, have been hurt by the assumption that each year home to raise a family amounts to a value of zero. The evidence is clear that children who are raised at home by their own parent fare better on most measures. Ask any teacher who has seen the changes in society over the decades about the differences. It is time that women are valued for their contributions to our country.

    by Maimi — February 10, 2020

  34. Here is an idea whose time has come. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/03/upshot/paying-for-parenting.html

    by Maimi — February 10, 2020

  35. Clyde, Regarding traditional pensions, while many employers (other than government) have phased out the traditional plans, they pretty much all have transitioned to giving matching payments to 401K plans and if they dont have such plans people can open an IRA (many small companies even provide payments to IRAs if they dont have 401K plans.) Those plans (401K and IRA) are not meant to replace other savings just as pensions weren’t. And IRAs and 401K plans are a blessing to the changing work force since few people spend their entire working life at the same company and might never have the years in to qualify for a pension. Many of us have changed jobs and even careers multiple times, sometimes voluntarily sometimes not, but retirement plans come with us when we do. The biggest problem with SS and pensions if that they were started with an expectation that the retirees would only live a couple a years after retirement, they were never planned for people to live more than 4 or 5 years after retiring, yet we do.

    by Jean — February 10, 2020

  36. Maimi,
    Not sure about your claim that children raised at home are better off than those who spend time in daycare; just as the quality of daycare might vary so to does the parenting of stay at home moms (yes some are really bad and the kid would be much better off in day care). And SS does provide for people to collect SS based of their spouses earnings if that would be higher than their own SS if they ever worked. Even divorced people can collect from ex spouse if they were married for a while. Also, today many people work from home and often flex their hours over the course of the day and of course there have always been shift work and weekend jobs that woman who chose to be home during the weekdays have filled – hospitals and nursing homes are open 24/7, retail is open evenings and weekends, etc. It would be good though, if anyone could open and contribute to an IRA whether they were employed or not.

    by Jean — February 10, 2020

  37. Maimi, I just don’t see how a fair system could be used in the SS calculation to make up for the zero’s.

    one kid: 6 years stay at home
    two kids: 12 years stay at home
    three kids: 18 years stay at home
    four kids: 24 years stay at home
    five kids: 30 years stay at home

    I don’t think anyone is saying that a stay at home mother or father has zero value but there has to be a system in place for each person to grow their own SS money. The system is built so those of us working now are paying for those of us collecting SS.

    If staying home to raise children is is a person’s goal, and they know they will get zero’s each year in their account, then other options should be considered. The working spouse could set up an IRA each year for the stay at home spouse. The stay at home spouse could get a part time job working weekends or evenings while the working spouse is off. Grandparents may be able to help out for childcare for a few hours a day so the stay at home spouse can get out to a job. Some people have online businesses like etsy where they make items to sell which the income could be claimed.

    It is not easy but the way the SS system is now, we all have to work and contribute to SS or we get a small check or nothing if we don’t contribute. Those who are married or were married 10 years can get part of the spouse’s SS check.

    Also, the longer the stay at home spouse stays home the less desirable they will be later on when looking for employment. They have not gained new at work skills. Colleges are graduating kids and employers will hire educated fresh faced young people who have the up to date current skills needed in the workforce.

    by Louise — February 10, 2020

  38. Maimi: You’re certainly opening a can of worms on a major debate. The studies are actually very mixed. For every study showing the benefits of a stay-at-home parent, there are now studies showing that children of working parents can have significant economic & other benefits. Frankly, with high divorce statistics & the need for most women to be able to stand on their own two feet financially, it’s a big personal risk in today’s world for any woman to rely on someone else’s support/career for retirement planning. (It’s also clear modern society doesn’t value stay-at-home moms, since instead of providing welfare and other benefits for single Moms & poor young families, we’re seeing efforts to cut benefits & force beneficiaries to work.)

    Realisticaly, we’re more likely to see an argument by society, in view of the potential insolvency of Social Security and the potential to cut benefits — that parents who chose not to contribute into the system by not working, are double-dipping by getting paid two benefits on one spouse’s contributions.

    by Sharon — February 10, 2020

  39. Pat Luftman, Your link gives the total federal spending chart in 2015: Medicare and Health 27.42% and Social Security, Unemployment and Labor 33.26%. That’s 60.68%. No wonder we are facing huge problems as us boomers retire…

    by Roger N — February 10, 2020

  40. Miami, the primary reason for higher statistics on child problems is greater attention and better diagnosis. The real issue is our failure to properly deal with these concerns.

    by RichPB — February 10, 2020

  41. My point is that raising America’s children is work and should be given credit as work in the SS system. There should not be zeros for those years.

    by Maimi — February 11, 2020

  42. Roger N, I agree, no wonder……

    “Mandatory spending makes up nearly two-thirds of the total federal budget. Social Security alone comprises more than a third of mandatory spending and around 23 percent of the total federal budget. Medicare makes up an additional 23 percent of mandatory spending and 15 percent of the total federal budget.”

    Last time I looked , 23 plus 15 = 38.

    by Pat Luftman — February 11, 2020

  43. The Social Security system is already on unsteady ground. How could it possibly hold together if every child bearing woman in the USA stayed home to raise children and not put any money into the SS system? I don’t see this ever happening and as it is, Medicaid and Food Stamps are under the microscope to be cut or the requirements will be more stringent.

    The stay at home parent needs to do things that prevent getting zero’s in their Social Security account each year. Even a small income is better than a zero contribution. Working part time weekends or evenings could provide that.

    Working past Full Retirement Age could add to the 35 year requirement.

    But I think the best option would be to split the SS contribution from the working spouse into the working spouse account and the stay at home spouse’s account. However, that is not an option at this time,

    by Louise — February 11, 2020

  44. Fortunately in this day and age, one can work from home and online. It is not the 1960’s any more. If a parent wants to even start a small online business from home, it is a viable option. Where I live, only very wealthy parents consider staying home with their children. Daycare is very expensive. I live near one daycare center that costs $29,000 per year!

    Maimi, I am not sure how much of a SS credit should replace a 0 each year. It most likely would not be a very large sum. This would not be of much help to a non working parent in the long run. It could also destabilize the current SS system.

    by Jennifer Lee — February 12, 2020

  45. About 0 in SS for some years, it doesn’t represent 0 years worked, it represents 0 WAGES paid into the system. Lots of us have 0s for years full time in grad school, taking care of parents, large scale volunteering, all much work and all no wages. It was our decision and we knew what it meant as far as future SS.

    by Jean — February 12, 2020

  46. Pat and Roger, thank you for pointing out the mistake in the numbers I quoted. I didn’t realize that unemployment was included with Medicare and Social Security in the figure. I believe it is important to be as accurate as we can when putting info out. This prompted me to go to “the” source on this, which I should have to begin with, the Social Security Administration trustees report. The most recent I found was the 2019 report (for fiscal year 2018; https://www.ssa.gov/oact/trsum/) and it reports that 45% of federal spending was for Social Security and Medicare. The primary point I was trying to make remains the same: a huge amount of our national treasury goes to just these two programs every year. Furthermore, these are at least theoretically, or were prior to disability and SSI, “earned” benefits whereby beneficiaries pay into the programs throughout their working lives to be redeemed in retirement, vs welfare programs which are simply transfers from taxpayers to various individuals the government has deemed worthy of other’s money. That may upset some, but it’s important to call a spade a spade. That is the essence of the income redistribution that some advocate for. Welfare programs are very different than earned benefit programs or programs designed for the common good, in which everyone agrees to pay in and everyone benefits. For example, all taxpayers pay a portion of their taxes for national defense, and everyone benefits from the freedoms and liberties secured thereby. Welfare programs benefit a select group. Some may agree with that, but some do not. Personally, I think government is a poor overseer of our money. There is a huge amount of fraud waste and abuse. Much of the money designated for welfare programs is devoured by huge, inefficient bureaucracies. Conversely, charitable organizations are much more effective ways of supporting individuals who are in need of the proverbial “hand up”, and that money wouldn’t end up in the hands of government bureaucrats. It’s been said many times before, but it is apropos: do you really want the same people who run the DMV and the post office to run, well, anything?

    I’d like to make one other point regarding the cost of government programs, including Medicare and SS. Remember that we have been running deficits between half and a trillion dollars per year for the past decade +. So the benefits are being paid in part with borrowed money. If we were to erase that deficit only with increased taxes, and just maintain current benefits as they are much less increase them, I suspect the impact of the country’s taxes going up a trillion dollars per year would likely quiet a lot of the calls for expansion of these programs….or increase the call for the rich to pay their “fair share”, which is another conversation.

    by Partagas — February 12, 2020

  47. Jennifer, a stay at home parent does work. Any parent who has raised their own children knows that. Working at home doing something else other than childcare is not really being present to the children, Raising America’s children is valuable to our country. You say that only the wealthy parent can stay home and then you say day care is 29k a year. That means a parent would have to have a very high gross income to make working outside the home worth the cost of paying someone else to raise your children. One solution would be to change the calculation formula so those years at home are not included in the calculation. I

    by Maimi — February 13, 2020

  48. Although I sympathize with all the stay at home’s, the system was designed for income in / income out. I don’t see it ever changing. Sorry.

    by Roger H — February 13, 2020

  49. Yes, a stay at home mom or dad does ‘work’ but does not earn wages subject to taxation unless they are self employed or work outside the home.

    The same being said about a person who stays home to care for a sick mom or dad or a relative.

    Wages have to be paid and taxed to get the SS credits. That is the way our current system works.

    There are lots of rules and laws that don’t seem fair but until they are changed, this is what we have.

    by Louise — February 13, 2020

  50. Maimi, I never meant to imply that stay at homes Mothers do not work. My own Mother was a stay at home mother and I am well aware of that. I was referring to working outside of the home or in some job capacity (online)which earns an income. This is what of us are talking about, I think that is clear enough.

    It is expensive to employ daycare in this country and if a woman has more than two children, the earned salary she makes may all go to childcare. Currently if one chooses to have children, this is a choice families make all the time according to what is affordable to their family situation.
    .
    I wish every child could experience the daycare I was referring to near my home in my earlier post. The children are well cared for, the teachers are well paid as are the attendants. Respect is key among both children and staff and they do interesting fun projects with the children according to age level.. In spite of the cost, there is a waiting list. I think children are often better off in a more social climate than just being at home with an overworked mother. Many women are not equipped to raise children and we do not live in a “Leave it to Beaver” world any longer. Roger is correct in that the system is designed for a paid job. It will not change any time soon.

    by Jennifer — February 13, 2020

  51. Although it is a slap in the face to those who want to stay home to raise their children, there are some hard realities that should be considered before making staying home the final decision.

    It’s a little-known fact: When one leaves the workforce for more than five years — no matter how long they’ve paid into the system — Social Security Disability benefits evaporate. Simply put, the money you paid into the system is gone, returned to the “pool” for others to use. This means that if you become ill or disabled SSDI will not be available to those out of the work force for 5 years. See this article: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-social-security-con-h_b_9369742

    Then while you are out of the work force you will lose the ability for participating in a 401K which could be a substantial loss for retirement purposes.

    When returning to the work force, jobs may not be easy to find due to younger, college graduates applying for the same jobs.

    Editor’s note: While this seems to be true, it is important to note that Louise is talking about “Disability” benefits from Social Security. Being out of the workforce for 5 years or more would NOT eliminate your Social Security “retirement” benefits, unless it meant you didn’t get a minimum of 40 quarters of earnings. It might not help your total earnings record though.

    by Louise — February 13, 2020

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