Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Social Security Advisory Board Announces 2019 Technical Panel

Social Security Advisory Board Announces 2019 Technical Panel

The Social Security Advisory Board (SSAB) has appointed an independent, expert panel to review the assumptions and methods used to develop the annual report of the Social Security Trustees on the financial status of the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance trust funds. This 2019 Technical Panel on Assumptions and Methods is the sixth quadrennial panel the board has commissioned since 1999.

Policymakers and the public rely on the financial projections made by the Office of the Chief Actuary and published in the Trustees Report to understand the financial soundness of Social Security’s vital programs. The Panel will provide an independent assessment of the information used by the Trustees, the Chief Actuary, and program administrators to evaluate the program’s financial status.

To that end, the Panel, which consists of prominent actuaries, economists, and demographers, will analyze how economic and demographic trends will affect Social Security’s long-term solvency. The Panel will meet beginning in the fall of 2018, through the summer of 2019, at the SSAB office at 400 Virginia Ave. SW, Suite 625, Washington, DC. The Panel will issue a final report of its findings by September 2019. Additional information about the Technical Panel and upcoming meetings can be accessed at the Panel’s public information web page.

The 2019 Technical Panel on Assumptions and Methods is chaired by Robert M. Beuerlein, who has more than 40 years of experience in the life insurance industry working with the product and financial analysis of life, disability, and retirement insurance. He is a fellow of the Society of Actuaries, a member of the American Academy of Actuaries, and a Chartered Enterprise Risk Analyst. Mr. Beuerlein is a past president of the American Academy of Actuaries (2017) and the Society of Actuaries (2006).

The other members of the Panel include:

Ron Gebhardtsbauer, fellow of the Society of Actuaries, member of the American Academy of Actuaries, and professor emeritus in the Actuarial Science Program, Penn State University

Alexander Gelber, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Economics and School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California, San Diego

Joshua Goldstein, Ph.D., Chancellor’s Professor of Demography, University of California, Berkeley

Patricia L. (Tricia) Guinn, interim chief risk officer, Willis Towers Watson; fellow of the Society of Actuaries; member of the American Academy of Actuaries; Chartered Enterprise Risk Analyst; and previously managing director, Risk and Financial Services, Towers Watson

Kathleen Mullen, Ph.D., senior economist, RAND Corporation; director, RAND Center for Disability Research; and associate director, RAND Economics, Sociology and Statistics Department

Louise Sheiner, Ph.D., Robert S. Kerr Senior Fellow in Economic Studies, Brookings Institution, and policy director, Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy

Sita Nataraj Slavov, Ph.D., professor of public policy and director of the public policy Ph.D. program, Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University

Kent Smetters, Ph.D., Boettner Chair Professor, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and Faculty Research Fellow, National Bureau of Economic Research

Tom Terry, fellow of the Society of Actuaries, member of the American Academy of Actuaries, fellow of the Conference of Consulting Actuaries, Enrolled Actuary, past president of the American Academy of Actuaries (2014) and the International Actuarial Association (2017); and CEO of the Terry Group, a healthcare, insurance and retirement consulting firm

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Retirement research funding opportunity: 2019 Sandell Grant and Dissertation Fellowship

Announcing the 2019 Sandell Grant and Dissertation Fellowship Programs

Sandell Grant Program

  • Sandell Grants provide the opportunity for junior or non-tenured scholars to pursue research on retirement or disability policy.  The program is open to scholars in all disciplines.
  • Up to three grants of $45,000 will be awarded for one-year projects.
  • Proposal guidelines are available online.

Dissertation Fellowship Program

  • Dissertation Fellowships support doctoral candidates studying retirement or disability policy.  The program is open to scholars in all disciplines.
  • Up to three fellowships of $28,000 will be awarded.
  • Proposal guidelines are available online.

The submission deadline for both programs is January 31, 2019.

The Sandell Grant and Dissertation Fellowship Programs
are funded by the U.S. Social Security Administration.

Center for Retirement Research at Boston College
258 Hammond Street, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
(617) 552-1762 | fax: (617) 552-0191 |

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Friday, October 26, 2018

Savings and Retirement Foundation, November 1

Join us the afternoon of Thursday, November 1, 2018

For a Lunch Meeting with Guest Speaker:

John Topoleski
Specialist, Income Security
Congressional Research Service
Who will talk about his paper:
Policy Options for Multiemployer Defined Benefit Pension Plans
November 1, 2018

Noon-1:00 p.m.
DC Office of Indiana University
1455 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Suite 1125
Washington, DC 20004
(Lunch will be provided)

John is a Specialist in Income Security with the Congressional Research Service.  He covers a variety of private-sector pensions and retirement issues, as well as the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) and state and local government pension plans.  Before working at CRS, he was a visiting professor of Economics at the University of Toronto.  He received his PhD. in Economics from the University of New Orleans in 2005.


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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Expand Social Security…by Delaying Retirement

Writing for MarketWatch, Brenton Smith points that that early retirement can cause huge cuts in Americans’ Social Security benefits, far larger than an proposals to expand Social Security would fix.

The harsh reality is our benefit levels today reflect decisions that current seniors made decades ago. While we hear a lot today about the benefits of delaying the first check from Social Security until the age of 70, well over half of the retirees in the 1990s elected to take the money at 62. These people are now in their mid-80s and collecting only 80% of their full monthly benefit.

More troubling is the fact that this impact will get worse as the discount for early retirement rises. In 2010, nearly 80% of retirees claimed benefits before full retirement. Someone retiring at 62 today will get checks that are 26.3% smaller. Soon enough, people who choose to at 62 will receive benefit checks that are 30% smaller, as the normal retirement age increases to 67. (You get a bonus if you wait past your retirement age.)

If benefit checks are insufficient to keep seniors from falling into poverty-ridden old-age, we need to look at the rules of early retirement and their curious incentives designed to create the low benefit levels in later years.

Click here to read the whole article.

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Friday, October 19, 2018

CBO Posts Social Security Background Data

Each year, the CBO produces updated Social Security financing projections as part of its Long Term Budget Outlook. Following on from that, the CBO usually produces a second document with additional background information on Social Security alone. This year, CBO skipped the document part and just produced the data used for it, which makes sense since most of that background document is simply charts and tables. Below I’ll just highlight some of the data that spoke to me, but there’s a lot of useful information there for the wonk set.

To start, CBO projects a more pessimistic future for Social Security than do the Social Security Trustees. Over 75-years, the Trustees project an ‘actuarial deficit’ of 2.84% of taxable wages. That means that an immediate and permanent increase of the 12.4% payroll tax to 15.24% would be sufficient to keep the trust funds solvent for 75 years, though not longer. CBO, by contrast, projects a shortfall of 4.44% of payroll; that implies an increase in the payroll tax rate to 16.84%. Not someday, but immediately. Or, if we delay, even bigger increases. Or, alternately, significant benefit reductions.


On that front, this chart shows how much benefits would need to be cut to restore 75-year solvency, based on when the cuts were made and who they applied to. If we cut benefits across the board today, a 27% reduction would suffice to keep Social Security solvent. But if we wait until 2031, we’d need a 31% cut. Alternately, if we cut benefit only for new beneficiaries, to exempt current retirees and the disabled, cuts would vary between 33 and 43%.


This chart shows my preferred measure of benefit adequacy, which is the initial benefit as a percentage of inflation-adjusted career-average earnings. Knowing the current adequacy of benefits for different earner types gives us an idea of how much we could reduce benefits, and for who, without fatally undermining Social Security’s social insurance goals. These figures don’t include auxiliary (spousal) benefits, and they’re calculated net of income taxes levied on retirement benefits (this affects mostly upper earners today, but will hit middle- and upper-income retirees in the future). For middle earners, the average replacement rate declines from 60% for individuals born in the 1940s to 57% for those born in the 2000s. For low earners replacement rates are on the mid-90s throughout, which (IMO) explains many low earners don’t save much for retirement. For high earners replacement rates fall from the high to the mid-30s. While they clearly need to save, by these measures Social Security could cover roughly half an adequate retirement income even for he richest fifth of retirees.


My takeaways:

  • The long-term Social Security shortfall could well be more than we think; anyone who claims it’s a “modest” problem needs to look at CBO’s numbers.
  • No single approach is likely to be politically palatable; the tax increases or benefit cuts alone just won’t fly with Congress or voters. So in practice we’ll need a package that maybe – maybe! – they’ll accept.
  • If we think today’s choices are hard, waiting only makes the choices harder. Congress, being about as present-minded as a 5-year old, usually prefers to kick the can down the road.
  • Finally, Social Security benefits – particularly for the bottom 40% of the population – go a lot further toward providing an adequate retirement income than many people think. There’s room to trim, particularly for middle and high earners, without causing a retirement crisis.
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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Job opening, Funding Our Future Campaign

Campaign Manager, Funding Our Future Campaign

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Bipartisan Policy Center is a non-profit organization that combines the best ideas from both parties to promote health, security, and opportunity for all Americans. BPC drives principled and politically viable policy solutions through the power of rigorous analysis, painstaking negotiation, and aggressive advocacy.

As a leading Washington, DC-based think tank that actively promotes bipartisanship, BC works to address the key challenges facing the nation. Our policy solutions are the product of informed deliberations with former elected and appointed officials, business and labor leaders, and academics and advocates who possess views from across the political spectrum. We are currently focused on policy issues related to health, energy, national and homeland security, the economy, education, immigration, infrastructure, and governance.

In 2016, EPP released the final report of its Commission on Retirement Security and Personal Savings, a two-year effort co-chaired by former Senator Kent Conrad and the Honorable James B. Lockhart III, former Deputy Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. The 19-member commission reached consensus on a comprehensive package of bipartisan recommendations aimed at: increasing access to workplace retirement savings plans, improving financial capability, strengthening Social Security and making it sustainable, and facilitating lifetime-income options to protect against outliving savings.

As part of continuing its work on retirement policy, BPC is currently seeking a Campaign Manager to support the Funding Our Future campaign as part of BPC’s Economic Policy Project (EPP). Funding Our Future was launched early this year by the Bipartisan Policy Center and financial advisor Ric Edelman to raise the profile of challenges facing the American retirement system and to strengthen people’s ability to retire securely in America by improving public policy. The campaign is now made up of a diverse set of more than 30 partner organizations, each with a deep expertise in retirement policy. These partners are combining their voices to strengthen retirement policy in three key areas:

  • Make saving easier for all ages
  • Help people transform their nest egg into a lifetime of income
  • Save Social Security

The position of Funding Our Future Campaign Manager is a versatile one and involves a variety of tasks, often simultaneously. The manager will be responsible for executing the day-to-day activities of the Funding Our Future campaign, including coordinating with the campaign’s partners, working closely with other BPC staff to develop content for the campaign, and ensuring that the campaign is effectively achieving its goals. The position will report to the director of economic policy and work closely with others on BPC’s economic policy team.

Specifically, the manager will have the following responsibilities:

  • Coordinate day-to-day campaign activities and workflow, including organizing and executing events, managing and contributing to development of the campaign website and other research content, and coordinating with campaign partners
  • Manage the campaign’s social media accounts and identify ways to increase the scope and quality of the campaign’s media presence
  • Coordinate integration of the campaign with BPC Action and BPC functional areas including development, operations, and communications teams
  • Conduct research into specific issue areas related to retirement security and policy
  • Manage planning, coordination, and execution of local public and private external stakeholder meetings and events
  • Provide administrative support by scheduling meetings with BPC staff, campaign leadership, consultants, and external organizations; arranging travel and accommodations for project members and meeting attendees; planning logistics for project-related meetings; and managing reimbursements
  • Prepare agendas for, attend, and take and circulate notes on all campaign meetings
  • Draft external communications, advocacy, and development documents
  • Represent the campaign at select external meetings/events, including congressional briefings, conferences, stakeholder roundtables, and other events as needed

Periodically, opportunities will arise to contribute to new or expanding projects in other policy or functional areas.

  • Computer skills required. Experience with and knowledge of Microsoft Office Suite
  • Attention to detail a must, including the ability to quickly and accurately proofread project documents
  • Ability to communicate effectively in oral and written forms is essential
  • Strong interpersonal and problem-solving skills
  • Ability to multi-task and effectively prioritize competing deadlines in a fast-paced environment
  • Works well independently and as part of a team
  • Event planning and coordination experience
  • Knowledge and interest in retirement policy, experience conducting policy research, and experience in project management a plus
  • Applicant must minimally have completed a four-year undergraduate degree. At least three years of work experience (or a graduate degree and some work experience) is strongly preferred.

BPC offers a highly competitive salary and provides generous benefits. Individuals interested in this position should send a resume, cover letter, writing sample, transcript (if a recent graduate), and references to Please include the title of this job, Campaign Manager, Funding Our Future, in the subject line of the application email.

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