Projections of economic well-being for Social Security beneficiaries in 2022 and 2062

Soc Secur Bull. 2005;66(4):1-19.

Abstract

Policymakers considering potential changes to the Social Security program need to be able to assess how such changes would affect the economic well-being of future retirees. The first step to understanding these effects is to determine the well-being of future retirees under the current Social Security system. To this end, this article projects the retiree populations aged 62 or older in 2022 and 2062 using the Social Security Administration's MINT (Modeling Income in the Near Term) model and assesses their well-being. Because no one measure can fully capture whether future retirees will have adequate resources to meet their needs, we employ several indicators to assess retirement prospects. In addition, because current-law Social Security promises cannot be financed from current-law taxes, we project an alternative 2062 baseline that adjusts Social Security benefits downward to reflect the amounts that current-law taxes can support. Our results illustrate the importance of using several measures when assessing the well-being of future Social Security beneficiaries. When using absolute measures, retirement well-being will improve for Social Security beneficiaries in 2062 compared with those in 2022. Median per capita income of Social Security beneficiaries is projected to increase by a third (in real terms) between 2022 and 2062, with a corresponding decline in projected poverty rates. In addition, median financial wealth will increase between 2022 and 2062. Relative measures of well-being, however, suggest a decline in well-being between Social Security beneficiaries in 2022 and those in 2062. The share of beneficiaries who have low income relative to their peers, measured as the share whose income-to-needs ratio is less than half of the median ratio, will increase over time. In addition, income replacement rates are projected to fall between 2022 and 2062, indicating a decline in how well-being during retirement compares with that during the working years. And although median financial wealth will increase between 2022 and 2062, it will actually fall relative to economy-wide average wages. Projected improvements over time would lessen, and declines would be exacerbated, if instead of assuming the payment of currently scheduled Social Security benefits we assumed that benefits would be reduced according to what is payable under current-law taxes. Regardless of which measure of well-being is used, certain groups fare worse than others, including beneficiaries who never married, nonwhites, beneficiaries without a high school degree, and those with fewer years of labor force experience and low lifetime earnings. These vulnerable groups are likely to be more dependent on Social Security benefits for their retirement income. As a result, they fare particularly poorly under the assumption that Social Security benefits are reduced to reflect what is payable under current-law taxes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Poverty / trends
  • Retirement / economics
  • Social Security / trends*
  • Social Welfare / trends
  • United States