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The New Social Security Commission Personal Accounts: Where is the Investment Principal?

Author

Listed:
  • Alan L. Gustman

    (Dartmouth College and NBER)

  • Thomas L. Steinmeier

    (Texas Tech University)

Abstract

The President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security suggests three plans for reforming Social Security. These plans divert various amounts of the payroll tax to a personal account if the worker chooses to participate in the account. In return, Social Security benefits are offset using accounts with real returns ranging from 2% to 3.5%. In addition, the second and third plans proposed by the Commission include features that are designed to balance the finances of the system by reducing the rate of growth of benefits relative to the levels prescribed under current law, to make the system more redistributive, and to make other changes. When “personal accounts ” are mentioned, most people think of accounts that are in some sense separate and shielded from the uncertainties of the Social Security system. That is not the case for the personal accounts proposed by the Commission. Because the participating individual is not entitled to the principal in the account, participating in the account does not shield the individual from the political risks of being in the Social Security system. As a result, the reduction in political risk fostered by the Commission’s proposals comes mainly from the improvement in the financial status of the system fostered by other provisions of the recommended plans. Measures to improve the benefits of low-income individuals, widows and widowers and to enhance the rewards to retirement all create incentive effects that are also discussed in the paper.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2002. "The New Social Security Commission Personal Accounts: Where is the Investment Principal?," Working Papers wp031, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp031
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    File URL: http://www.mrrc.isr.umich.edu/publications/Papers/pdf/wp031.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Martin Feldstein & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2002. "The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number feld02-1, June.
    2. Julia Lynn Coronado & Don Fullerton & Thomas Glass, 2002. "Long-Run Effects of Social Security Reform Proposals on Lifetime Progressivity," NBER Chapters,in: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform, pages 149-206 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. John B. Shoven, 2000. "Administrative Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number shov00-1, June.
    4. Richard Disney & Robert Palacios & Edward Whitehouse, 1999. "Individual choice of pension arrangement as a pension reform strategy," IFS Working Papers W99/18, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    5. Feldstein, Martin & Liebman, Jeffrey B., 2002. "Social security," Handbook of Public Economics,in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 32, pages 2245-2324 Elsevier.
    6. Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2002. "Redistribution in the Current U.S. Social Security System," NBER Chapters,in: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform, pages 11-48 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1998. "Privatizing Social Security: First-Round Effects of a Generic, Voluntary, Privatized U.S. Social Security System," NBER Chapters,in: Privatizing Social Security, pages 313-361 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Martin Feldstein & Andrew Samwick, 1998. "The Transition Path in Privatizing Social Security," NBER Chapters,in: Privatizing Social Security, pages 215-264 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. John Y. Campbell & Martin Feldstein, 2001. "Risk Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number camp01-1, June.
    10. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Kent A. Smetters & Jan Walliser, 1998. "Opting Out of Social Security and Adverse Selection," NBER Working Papers 6430, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hugo Benítez-Silva & Debra Sabatini Dwyer & Warren Sanderson, 2006. "A Dynamic Model of Retirement and Social Security Reform Expectations: A Solution to the New Early Retirement Puzzle," Working Papers wp134, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    2. Gustman, Alan L. & Steinmeier, Thomas L., 2005. "Retirement Effects of Proposals by the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 58(1), pages 27-49, March.
    3. Brian S. Armour & M. Melinda Pitts, 2007. "Smoking: taxing health and Social Security," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, issue Q 3, pages 27-41.
    4. Pfau, Wade Donald, 2007. "Reforming Social Security: Issues and Challenges for Personal Retirement Accounts," MPRA Paper 19034, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Engelhardt, Gary V. & Kumar, Anil, 2005. "Social security personal-account participation with government matching," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 4(02), pages 155-179, July.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies

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