Stabilizing Social Security

by Jeffry R. Fisher


Originally conceived as insurance against outliving one's ability to work, social security set its qualification age at 65 in an era when life expectancy was 59. Most workers were expected to work until they died without ever collecting a dime. The only people who would collect were those "lucky" few still alive when they were unable to provide for themselves. In 1936, 65 was not just "deserving a rest"; for most, 65 was decrepit and incapacitated.

Political Rigidity

Much has changed in longevity and health, but social security, being bureaucratized and politicized, has not kept pace. Life expectancy is now 79 and advancing, but the full qualification age for social security has advanced all of the way to... (are you ready?) ...65 1/2! It's not scheduled to hit 67 until 2027! What political cowardice! The concept of insurance against disability and incapacitation is long forgotten except by a few non-Marxist philosophers and historians like myself.


Therefore, to guarantee the financial solvency of social security and restore its original purpose, we should at least recalibrate it. That would mean accelerating the shift in qualification age and letting it run until it is again about 10% over life expectancy. Of course, disability would still qualify those who by accident or enfeeblement become unable to work before that age.

[Though complete privatization would be even better] I propose that qualification age advance by one month every alternate month. With life expectancy now at 79 and climbing, we should immediately legislate at least a 20 year age shift over the next 40, and we will probably need even more than that after medicine advances during that time. In fact, to truly restore social security to its insurance roots, we should just make the slide permanent so that age gradually ceases to be a factor and all qualification is eventually by disability only.

If it can't be eliminated outright, early retirement should be similarly shifted also.

Precipitous Demographics

Now would be an excellent time to start the shift. The baby boom is just about to retire. That means that the rate of new subscribers to social security is just about to explode. Applying the shift during this period would stretch out the baby boom to just about the current rate, thereby saving social security from total collapse *without* raising payroll taxes.

As much as it may rankle those who've been waiting to collect, at least one good thing about a gradual slide is that those closest to qualifying will be affected the least. However, those like me who have the most to gain or lose from either collapse or from exploding taxes will be the ones who will experience the longest delay. It is my sincere hope that those benefiting from social security today will help to gently modernize it so that younger adults like me will have the same safety net, not when we're feeling tired at 67, but when we absolutely need it in our 80's.

Copyright 2003-2008 by Jeffry R. Fisher: Permission is granted to reproduce this article in whole, but only in combination with attribution, the original title, the original URL, and this copyright notice.
Jeffry R. Fisher is the founder and president of Propagate Ltd, which is liberating digital content as