The Trustees of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance (OASDI) programs project in their 2000 report that the combined trust funds are sufficient to pay full benefits for the next 37 years, until 2037. This is three years further into the future than the insolvency date projected in the 1999 report.
According to the intermediate or best estimate assumptions of the 2000 Trustees' Report,the trust funds are in short-range (10-year) actuarial balance.The combined assets of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and Disability Insurance (DI) trust funds increased from $762.5 billion in December 1998 to $896.1 billion in January 2000 and are estimated to reach $2,996 billion by January 2010. The Trustees also report that while the combined trust funds are sufficient to pay full benefits for the next 37 years, both OASI and DI programs continue to face long-term deficits.
Trust Fund Ratios
OASI. The OASI trust fund ratio, the number that represents projected trust fund assets at the beginning of the year as a percentage of that year's expenditures, is projected to increase from 226 percent in 2000 to a peak of 472 percent in 2015 and then decline rapidly until exhaustion in 2039. (See Figure 1.)
DI. The Trustees project the DI trust fund will be able to pay benefits three years longer than was projected in 1999. The DI trust fund ratio, 172 percent at the beginning of 2000, is estimated by the Trustees to peak at a ratio of 243 percent in 2005. After this, the DI trust fund will decline, and be exhausted in 2023.
OASDI. If the OASI and DI trust fund expenditures are combined, outgo is projected to exceed current taxes beginning in 2015, when a portion of the funds' annual interest earnings will have to be combined with tax revenue to pay annual benefits. This combined funding approach will suffice until 2024, when total income, including tax revenue and interest earnings, will fall short of expenditures. At this time, the trust fund principal along with accruing tax revenues will have to be spent. If no action is taken, the combined funds will be exhausted in 2037. (In 1999, the peak ratio for the combined funds was estimated to be 364 percent in 2013 and the year of exhaustion 2034.)
Annual Cost and Income Rates
Another indicator of the financial status of the trust funds is a series of projected annual income and annual cost rates.
The 2000 Trustees' Report shows trust fund income rates rising slowly and steadily through 2075 due to a flat payroll tax and the increasing effect of the taxation of benefits. (See Figure 2.) Cost rates are also projected to rise slowly with faster increases by 2010. Cost rates will then increase rapidly for about 20 years (to 2030) as the baby boomers retire, then decline slightly as the baby boomers age and the small birth cohort of the late 1970s leaves the workforce. Thereafter, cost rates rise steadily but slowly, reflecting projected increases in life expectancy. (See Figure 2.) In the long range (75 years) the difference between the summarized income and cost rates for OASDI is a deficit of 1.89 percent of taxable payroll.
Annual Trust Fund Balances
Annual trust fund balances for OASDI are projected to remain positive until 2015. Thereafter, the deficit rises rapidly, reaching 1.75 percent of taxable payroll in 2020. The deficit continues to rise to 6.18 percent of taxable payroll in 2075. (See Figure 3.)
Trust Fund Assets
The U.S. Treasury invests assets of the trust funds, primarily FICA and SECA taxes not needed to pay current benefits, in special issue, interest-bearing government securities, i.e., the trust funds lend money to the U.S. Treasury. The securities can be redeemed at any time to pay benefits or administer the Social Security program. The U.S. Treasury must redeem the securities by transferring cash from another source (for example, income taxes) to the trust funds.
From 2000 until 2015, large sums of money will be flowing into the trust funds, and thus large sums of money will be borrowed by the U.S. Treasury. The situation reverses in 2024, and the trust fund securities are redeemed by the U.S. Treasury, paid for with potential budget surpluses or general revenues raised at that time.
In this report, the OASDI trust funds are projected to be adequately financed until 2037 when annual income is projected to be about 72 percent of the cost of benefits. The Trustees urge that these "long-range deficits...be addressed in a timely way." There are numerous options for improving the long-term solvency of the program. If careful consideration is given now, radical changes can be avoided and the program can be made actuarially sound for the long-term.
- 2000 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance Trust Funds.
- The data in this 2000 Trustees Report reflect consideration of the 1999 Technical Panel on Assumptions and Methods which was convened by the Social Security Advisory Board.
- All discussion, unless otherwise noted, is based upon the alternative II or intermediate assumptions. These are the actuaries' best estimates of future economic and demographic conditions.
- For a definition of short-range actuarial balance, see the 2000 Trustees' Report, page 73.
- The year of exhaustion is the first year that a trust fund is unable to pay benefits on time and in full.
- Federal Insurance Contributions Act and Self-Employment Contributions Act.
Written by Laurel Beedon and Charles Ford, AARP Public Policy Institute
May be copied only for noncommercial purposes and with attribution; permission required for all other purposes.
Public Policy Institute, AARP, 601 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20049