Research and Analysis by Anya Olsen
Each year, Social Security benefits increase automatically with the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), which is based on the rise in the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers (CPI-W). The analysis uses Modeling Income in the Near Term (MINT) projections to compare the distributional effects of three policy options discussed by the Social Security Advisory Board to improve system solvency.
This article provides an overview of the literature on best practices for retirement savings plan design and financial education in the workplace. Without a successful plan design, financial education will not be effective and even a well-structured plan can fail to achieve retirement savings goals without financial education. The main components of a retirement savings program that employers must consider include options for enrollment, investment choices, employer matching of contributions, and distributions over the working career and at retirement. In addition, employers control the core aspects of financial education, such as the topics covered, the delivery methods used, the frequency with which it is offered, and its general availability.
Incentivizing Delayed Claiming of Social Security Retirement Benefits Before Reaching the Full Retirement Age
Claiming Social Security retirement benefits before the full retirement age (FRA) results in permanently lower benefits, while delaying claiming permanently increases benefits. This article uses Modeling Income in the Near Term data to determine the socioeconomic characteristics of individuals who claim at various ages. The authors then describe a number of novel approaches aimed at encouraging individuals to delay claiming in the months and years before reaching their FRA. Lastly, the authors model one of those approaches to examine how a 1-year delay in claiming affects benefits and poverty in the future.
About one out of every four adult Social Security beneficiaries has served in the United States military, making military veterans and their families an important group to study. This article provides information on the demographic characteristics of military veterans, including their age, sex, marital status, education, and race and ethnicity. It also examines their economic status by looking at poverty levels and Social Security benefit payments. Information is based on data from the March 2004 Current Population Survey, a large, nationally representative survey of U.S. households.
More than one 1 of 5 adult Social Security beneficiaries has served in the military, and veterans and their families comprise 35 percent of the beneficiary population. Using data from the March 2010 Current Population Survey (CPS), this article presents the sociodemographic characteristics of the veteran beneficiary and the total veteran populations. The article draws comparisons with findings from the March 2000 CPS and the March 2004 CPS, and describes trends in the size and demographic makeup of the veteran population using data from the Department of Veterans Affairs' VetPop2007 projection model.
Mind the Gap: The Distributional Effects of Raising the Early Eligibility Age and Full Retirement Age
Policymakers have proposed increases to the early eligibility age (EEA) and/or full retirement age (FRA) to address increasing life expectancy and Social Security solvency issues. This analysis uses the Social Security Administration's Modeling Income in the Near Term (MINT) model to compare three retirement-age increases suggested by the Social Security Advisory Board: (1) increase the FRA alone, (2) increase both the EEA and FRA to maintain a 4-year gap between them, and (3) increase both the EEA and FRA to maintain a 5-year gap between them. This distributional analysis shows the impact these varying reforms would have on Social Security beneficiaries in the future.
The retirement earnings test (RET) is an often-misunderstood aspect of the Social Security program. Policymakers have proposed reforming the RET as a way to encourage working at older ages. However, this could also cause earlier benefit claiming. We use Modeling Income in the Near Term data to analyze the complete repeal of the earnings test for beneficiaries aged 60 or older, first assuming no behavioral responses to repeal and secondly assuming changes to benefit claiming and workforce participation behaviors. Our lifetime results show that the assumed behavioral response—particularly the benefit claiming change—has a bigger effect than the RET policy change itself.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) receives reports of earnings for the U.S. working population each year from employers and the Internal Revenue Service. The earnings information received is stored at SSA as the Master Earnings File (MEF) and is used to administer Social Security programs and to conduct research on the populations served by those programs. This article documents the history, content, limitations, complexities, and uses of the MEF (and data files derived from the MEF). It is intended for researchers who use earnings data to study work patterns and their implications, and for those interested in understanding the data used to administer the current-law programs.