Sunday February 3, 2013

Social Security has been a success for about 75 years, helping people survive financially after retirement. The money paid in by employee and employer has always been more than was paid out in benefits. With baby boomers beginning to retire, however, the income will no longer be more than what is paid out.

The Social Security Trust Fund has billions in reserve and is there to pay any shortage when needed. It is also a cushion to allow for corrections to be made before money runs out. Present estimates say it will last till 2037, so now is the time to make some adjustments. For example, people with health problems should have earlier options. We are living longer, and raising the Social Security retirement age slowly seems reasonable.

In my younger years, my family visited older relatives who had just started collecting Social Security, having paid in a little more than the required amount to be eligible to receive a check each month. They were very happy, saying that with their savings, rent from their upstairs apartment, plus Social Security, they would be fine. But they also said, "In a few years we will have received as much as we have paid in, and you all will be paying us from your input. Hope you don’t mind." My parents didn’t, because it kept them in their house and contributing to the economy instead of being a burden on society. This has been true throughout the years.

It is only fair that cost of living increases should be added to a recipient’s check each month. The official cost of living increase as calculated does not really cover the actual increase. Such things as gasoline, heating, insurance, health care and clothing are reasons for having the nest egg. Unfortunately, the nest egg does not pay as much interest as it used to, and some people lost value on their investments.

To keep taxes down, our government has spent money in the Social Security trust fund. Taxpayers will have to come up with the money -- a real double dip! A system to make corrections less painful should be devised because the sudden burden of paying it all back would be a disaster. It should be illegal to use Social Security money for any purpose other than payments to eligible recipients.

Most solutions I have heard involve reducing monthly checks by reducing cost of living increases. Everyone now on Social Security paid in more each year while they were working to keep recipients able to pay their bills and stay off welfare! It seems fair to expect the present contributors to do the same with the help of the trust fund.

A possible solution might be this. When the Social Security tax paid is less than what is paid out for a year, the 6.2 percent tax is raised to 6.3 percent of income, and the cap on incomes over $113,700 raised by several thousand. Higher-income people should look at this as a government guaranteed investment because they too can collect Social Security in proportion to their investment.

SAMUEL R.

WESTCOTT, JR.

Williamstown

The writer is a lifelong Williamstown resident, World War II veteran, and retired poultry geneticist.