Patt Morrison for January 27, 2011

Generation X, Y & the millennials prepare for retirement without Social Security

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William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Blank Social Security checks are run through a printer at the U.S. Treasury in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In their classic song “My Generation” The Who sang, “I hope I die before I get old.” The news from the Congressional Budget Office that projects Social Security will be completely broke by 2037 shouldn’t lead young people to be as extreme as The Who in their outlooks on aging, but it is depressing. Social Security’s finances have looked bleak for a while, but three years of a strong recession have tipped the balances into annual structural deficits—this year alone Social Security is expected to collect $45 billion less in payroll taxes than it pays out in retirement. Younger generations will have to absorb most of the blows necessary for fixing Social Security, whether it’s raising the retirement age further, means testing benefits payments, or increasing payroll taxes to fill in the shortfall. But the reality is that most young people aren’t planning on Social Security playing any kind of a major role in their retirement, possibly ending the prominence of what will be a century-old national pension program. Can Social Security be fixed, and do younger generations even care?


Brigitte Madrian, Professor of Public Policy and Corporate Management at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Governmemt

Melissa Favreault, Senior Fellow at The Urban Institute, focusing on social security reform

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