6 ways to improve Social Security

Bankrate Logo

Why you can trust Bankrate

While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for .

If you believe that cutting Social Security is bad for your retirement planning and the wrong way to go about fixing the economy, Eric Kingson, a professor of social work at Syracuse University, says stand up and defend the program.

Kingson, who is also co-director of Social Security Works and co-chair of the Strengthen Social Security coalition, spoke this week at the Claude Pepper Institute on Aging. He pointed to these statistics reported by Social Security itself in 2012.

  • Social Security is currently in surplus and has an accumulated reserve of $2.7 trillion.
  • Revenue will exceed benefits and administrative costs until 2021, when total accumulated reserves will be $3.1 trillion.
  • The accumulated reserves will enable the program to pay full benefits until 2033.
  • In 2033, reserves are projected to be depleted, but continuing wage taxes will cover three-quarters of benefits owed through 2087.
  • This projected shortfall is 2.6 percent of taxable payroll.

“We do not have a Social Security system that is belly up,” Kingson says.

Instead of cutting Social Security, Kingson would improve it. He advocates these steps to make the program better serve everyone, but especially for people living in retirement.

  1. Increase the payroll tax rate for workers slowly over 50 years.
  2. Lift the payroll tax cap completely for employers. “If they want to pay high earners millions, that’s fine, but make them pay wage tax on those salaries,” Kingson says.
  3. Adopt the consumer price index for the elderly, or CPI-E, which unlike the current CPI for urban wage earners or clerical workers, or CPI-W, or the proposed chained CPI, recognizes the rising cost of health care.
  4. Restore Social Security’s ability to offer good customer service by extending office hours and rehiring workers who were laid off.
  5. Increase benefits for the very poor. Give caregivers special credits, and give students who lose their parents benefits to age 22, so they can use them to pay for college.
  6. Keep the eligibility age at 62, encouraging work but protecting those who can’t.

If you like his ideas, Kingson says tell your congressional representatives. “Politicians are afraid of noise from their districts,” he says. “Write letters and circulate petitions.”