Politicians may be too chicken to fix Social Security's financial problems, but what about you? Can you make the politically tough decisions to shore up the system?
Find out by playing the Social Security Game, created by the American Academy of Actuaries. The online game ( www.actuary.org/socialsecurity/game.html) gives potential fixes and the pros and cons of each option.
For instance, raise the age to get full retirement benefits to 70 by 2030, and all of Social Security's solvency problems are cured. But workers in physically demanding jobs won't be happy because they may have to work longer. And employers won't be too pleased, either, because older workers mean higher health care costs.
Right now, the program runs at a $2.2 trillion surplus. But with millions of baby boomers retiring during the next several years, the picture changes. By 2017, Social Security will begin paying out more in benefits than it collects in taxes. By 2041, the surplus is spent. There are still enough taxes from workers and employees, though, to pay 78 percent of promised benefits.
So, how would you fix this shortfall? Play the game and let us know the choices you made.
Sam Davis of Towson played the game recently. He says he took a bite "from present, near future retirees, and younger workers." He favors accelerating the increase in the retirement age to 67, reducing cost-of-living adjustments starting next year and raising the amount of wages subject to Social Security taxes. These steps are more than enough to fix the system's problems.
"It boggles my mind to think that our legislators couldn't solve this problem given the great info available," he writes.