The Reformer An Interactive Tool to Fix Social Security

Social Security provides vital income security to millions of beneficiaries, but is on a road toward insolvency. The Social Security program currently pays more in benefits than it collects in revenue, and under the latest official projections its trust funds will run out in 2033. At that point, all beneficiaries regardless of age and income will face an immediate 23 percent benefit cut.

CRFB’s “The Reformer” allows users to choose from a number of options to modify Social Security tax and benefit levels in order to close the program’s 75-year shortfall and keep it sustainable for future generations.

See how your choices stack up!

See our methodology for this calculator

Methodology

CRFB’s The Reformer is an interactive tool designed to help users understand the choices and trade-offs in designing a package to make Social Security financially solvent. The options available in the tool represent versions of many of the most frequently discussed options, but are by no means exhaustive. A more comprehensive, but still far from complete, set of options are available from the Social Security Chief Actuary at http://www.ssa.gov/oact/solvency/provisions/index.html.

The Reformer aims to show annual revenue and spending levels associated with the Social Security system under user-selected scenarios. It also shows the annual size of the trust fund and calculates a number of key metrics such as the percent of the 75-year shortfall closed, the year of insolvency, and the percent across-the-board cut which would occur upon insolvency.

All outputs of the model should be considered rough estimates and not formal scores. In most cases, the effects of policy choices are estimated based on the 2012 Social Security Trustees Report; however, baseline metrics are based on the 2013 Social Security Trustees Report, given that the Social Security Administration typically needs additional time to update estimates of reform options in light of new projections.

Annual effects of policy choices are estimated by CRFB staff. In most cases, those estimates are based on figures from the Social Security Chief Actuary (http://www.ssa.gov/oact/solvency/provisions/index.html) with minor adjustments to account for timing changes or other issues. In some cases, estimates are based on data from other sources, including the Congressional Budget Office as well as internal calculations.

In general, the model does not account for various interactions between policies, though certain options with very large interactive effects – namely, investing a portion of the trust funds in equities and bringing all new state and local workers into the program – are adjusted under the assumption they would be part of a larger plan to achieve solvency.

Start dates and phase-ins vary from policy to policy within the model. Modifying these parameters could have substantial effects on the ultimate costs or savings of a reform plan.

Importantly, outputs from this tool should be taken as rough estimates to highlight orders of magnitude of many reform options.



Related Resources

Analysis of the 2013 Trustees Report
Read about the latest Social Security projections from the program's own trustees

Social Security & the Budget

CRFB's Other Interactive Tools


 

Social Security remains insolvent. The trust fund will run out in 2033 at which point all beneficiaries will face a sudden 23% benefit cut.

0%
Percent of 75-year shortfall closed
(0% of shortfall closed in 75th year)
% of gap closed
info

0%

56%
38%
3%

13%
18%
39%

21%
63%
-15%
% of gap closed
info

5%
4%
5%

-5%
-5%
-3%

12%
8%
5%
% of gap closed
info

0%

77%
32%
24%

9%
9%
11%

20%
-11%
0%

Trust Fund Projections
Percent of Annual Benefits

Baseline (Solid)
After Policy Changes (Dashed)

 

 

Social Security Spending & Revenue
Percent of Payroll (based on scheduled benefits)

Baseline Outlays (Solid,Dark/Blue)
Outlays After Policy Changes (Dashed,Dark/Blue)
Baseline Revenues (Solid,Light/Red)
Revenues After Policy Changes (Dashed,Light/Red)