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Will Baby Boomers Bankrupt America’s Social Security Program?

from reuters.com:

First U.S. baby boomer applies for Social Security

10/15/2007/5:17 P.M. EDT
by Donna Smith

WASHINGTON – Retired school teacher Kathleen Casey-Kirschling on Monday became the first ripple in a “silver tsunami” of retiring baby boomers applying for pension benefits that threatens to overwhelm U.S. government finances.

Casey-Kirschling was born one second after midnight on Jan. 1, 1946, and will receive her first Social Security check in February 2008 as the first wave of baby boomers turns 62 next year and becomes eligible for early retirement benefits.

Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue said the agency is bracing for some 80 million Americans to apply for retirement benefits over the next two decades. – More here.

from cnbc.com:

Will Baby Boomers Bankrupt Social Security?
2/8/2010/10:41 A.M. ET
by Rob Reuteman,

As the record federal budget deficit draws increasing scrutiny from Washington to Wall Street to Main Street, deficit hawks may take aim at entitlement programs including Social Security.

Photo: Jonathan D. Colman
And, the nearly 80 million Baby Boomers phasing into retirement will set in motion a dynamic that—if not addressed by Congress—could result in the next generation getting fewer benefits.

However, despite fears that Boomers will trigger a collapse of Social Security, experts say the system can and will survive for decades and generations to come.

Congress made significant fixes to Social Security during the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s, and there appears to be a slowly gathering political will to make it solvent for the next 75 years.

By 2017, Social Security is expected to start paying out more than it collects in payroll taxes, according to the 2009 Annual Report from the Social Security and Medicare Board of Trustees. There is currently a large surplus, but it will be drained by the year 2037. At that point, Social Security will only be able to pay out 75 percent of its benefits.

A separate report, done by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, concludes much the same thing, but gives the system another 10 years before it begins to fall apart.

Tom Brokaw Reports BOOMERS Click here for program information

The trustees’ annual report “does not depict a program in crisis,” said Kathy Ruffing, of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. “Policymakers should act sooner rather than later to put the program on a sound long-run footing, but today’s beneficiaries and workers approaching retirement need not fear that their Social Security benefits are at risk.”

“Alarmists who claim that Social Security won’t be around when today’s young workers retire misunderstand or misrepresent the trustees’ projections,” she added.

Beginning the Boom

Looking back, the outlook was rosy for most Americans in 1946, the year earmarked as the beginning of the so-called “baby boom.” With World War II finally over, a 15-year stretch of bad times that had begun with the great Depression was finally over. They responded by having more babies than ever before, more than 78 million of them by 1964.

For Social Security, the mini-population explosion was both beneficial and problematic. Social Security is funded mostly through payroll taxes, with present-day workers funding the payouts for retirees. Since there have been so many Boomers in the workforce for so many years, there were a lot more people putting money into the system than taking it out.

As Boomers begin to retire, the huge group of people putting money into the system will begin taking it out of the system, which then will be funded by a generation of workers—the so-called Gen X—whose numbers are some 15 million fewer. The surplus of money paid into the system by Boomers will allow it to run into the late 2030s, even though it will begin paying out more than it takes in by 2017.

“We won’t have a crisis,” says Michael Astrue, commissioner of the Social Security Administration. “2037 is a long way off and there is no reason to panic, but this is a serious issue we need to resolve. Younger people tend to overreact.” – More here.

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