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A Diversity of Risks: The Challenge of Retirement Preparedness in America

October 14, 2014 Comments off

A Diversity of Risks: The Challenge of Retirement Preparedness in America
Source: Bipartisan Policy Center

Many Americans are anxious about their retirement prospects. In fact, a recent Gallup poll found that not having enough money for retirement is the number one financial worry among Americans. For some, this concern is justified, as they face the daunting prospect of running short of money in their later years. But there is considerable variation in preparedness for retirement, and the challenges are more complicated than many realize.

When evaluating the retirement security landscape, complexity is the one constant. Potential sources of retirement income are numerous and varied, including: continued work (perhaps on a part-time basis), Social Security benefits, drawdown of personal savings, workplace retirement plans, annuities, home equity, financial support from family members, and more. Understanding this patchwork and building a solid foundation upon which to retire is no easy task for the average American.

Additionally, even for those who do accumulate substantial resources, retirees’ incomes and living standards are subject to a variety of risks, such as poor investment choices or returns, unexpected medical bills, outliving one’s savings, and needing expensive long-term care.

The U.S. retirement landscape is difficult to describe for the “average” person because the state of any particular retiree’s finances depends so heavily on which sources of income they have, how much they have, and what life events occur that could drain their nest egg.

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) Commission on Retirement Security and Personal Savings is examining the U.S. retirement system. Next year, the commission will make comprehensive recommendations to improve the financial security of Americans preparing for and in retirement. In advance of these recommendations, BPC staff is producing a series of white papers to highlight the retirement security challenges that public policy can address.

After a brief overview of the retirement system, this first white paper explores retirement preparedness through the lives of four fictional families, showing how they are preparing for retirement, what they could be doing better, and the risks that they will face over the course of their working years and their retirements.

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Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2014

October 3, 2014 Comments off

Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2014
Source: Social Security Administration

Fast Facts & Figures answers the most frequently asked questions about the programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). It highlights basic program data for the Social Security (retirement, survivors, and disability) and Supplemental Security Income programs. Most of the data come from the Annual Statistical Supplement to the Social Security Bulletin, which contains more than 240 detailed tables. The information on the income of the aged is from the data series Income of the Population 55 or Older. Data on trust fund operations are from the 2014 Trustees Report.

The tables and charts illustrate the range of program beneficiaries, from the country’s oldest to its youngest citizens. In all, about 63.2 million people receive some type of benefit or assistance.

Brookings Papers On Economic Activity Inform Public Policy Debates

October 3, 2014 Comments off

Brookings Papers On Economic Activity Inform Public Policy Debates
Source: Brookings Institution

New research findings at the Fall 2014 BPEA conference by leading academic and government economists include: the factors behind geographic variations in health care spending, the early impact of the Affordable Care Act state-by-state, the decline in the labor force participation rate, the current state of European economic integration, policy actions to be taken in the event of another housing crisis, and the trade-offs involved in a middle-of-the-road reform for Social Security.

CRS — Social Security Reform: Legal Analysis of Social Security Benefit Entitlement Issues (September 17, 2014)

October 1, 2014 Comments off

Social Security Reform: Legal Analysis of Social Security Benefit Entitlement Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Calculations indicating that the Social Security program will not be financially sustainable in the long run under the present statutory scheme have fueled the current debate regarding Social Security reform. This report addresses selected legal issues that may be raised regarding entitlement to Social Security benefits as Congress considers possible changes to the Social Security program in view of projected long-range shortfalls in the Social Security Trust Funds.

CRS — Social Security: What Would Happen If the Trust Funds Ran Out? (August 28, 2014)

September 15, 2014 Comments off

Social Security: What Would Happen If the Trust Funds Ran Out? (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Social Security Trustees project that, under their intermediate assumptions and under current law, the Disability Insurance (DI) trust fund will become exhausted in 2016 and the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) trust fund will become exhausted in 2034. Although the two funds are legally separate, they are often considered in combination. The trustees project that the combined Social Security trust funds will become exhausted in 2033. At that point, revenue would be sufficient to pay only about 77% of scheduled benefits.

If a trust fund became exhausted, there would be a conflict between two federal laws. Under the Social Security Act, beneficiaries would still be legally entitled to their full scheduled benefits. But the Antideficiency Act prohibits government spending in excess of available funds, so the Social Security Administration (SSA) would not have legal authority to pay full Social Security benefits on time.

New From the GAO

September 9, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimony
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. Veterans Affairs: Data Needed to Help Improve Decisions Concerning Veterans’ Access to Burial Options. GAO-14-537, September 9.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-537
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665664.pdf

2. Export-Import Bank: Enhancements Needed in Loan Guarantee Underwriting Procedures and for Documenting Fraud Processes. GAO-14-574, September 9.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-574
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665620.pdf

3. Contract Management: DOD’s Implementation of Justifications for 8(a) Sole-Source Contracts. GAO-14-721R, September 9.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-721R

4. Clinical Trials: Little is Known about Participation by Supplemental Security Income Recipients. GAO-14-734R, September 9.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-734R

5. Military Personnel: DOD Needs to Update General and Flag Officer Requirements and Improve Availability of Associated Costs. GAO-14-745, September 9.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-745
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665652.pdf

6. Bureau of Reclamation: Availability of Information on Repayment of Water Project Construction Costs Could Be Better Promoted. GAO-14-764. September 8.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-764
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665589.pdf

7. Military Personnel: DOD Needs to Take Further Actions to Prevent Sexual Assault during Initial Military Training. GAO-14-806, September 9.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-806
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665631.pdf

Testimony

1. Department Of Homeland Security: Actions Needed to Strengthen Management of Research and Development, by David C. Maurer, director, homeland security and justice, before the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies, House Committee on Homeland Security, and the Subcommittee on Research and Technology, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. GAO-14-865T, September 9.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-865T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665618.pdf

How do people with disabilities cope while waiting for disability insurance benefits?

September 8, 2014 Comments off

How do people with disabilities cope while waiting for disability insurance benefits? (PDF)
Source: Institute for the Study of Labor (Journal)

Disability Insurance waiting time varies from a few months to several years. We estimate the causal effect of longer waiting times on the use of five financial coping strategies. We find that SNAP benefits are the most responsive to longer waiting times. Moreover, while spousal employment is not responsive to longer wait times, spousal employment leads to longer waiting times, presumably because these applicants are more able to appeal. Together, these results suggest that coping strategies are used to both help applicants during the wait time and to extend the waiting time and increase their probability of success.

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