Given that eight million people age 65 and 16.7 million workers cannot sustain the current pension, imagine what will happen in the coming decades as the differential goes back even closer.
Pensions today promise Social Security payments of 100% of the average wage in the last 25 years for those with 37 years of Social Security contributions. Such payments are absolutely unsustainable. The relative income of pensioners relative to the average income of the society will sink (without massive tax looting of active workers).
Immigration could partially alleviate the problem, making the demographic transition somewhat smoother, but if new rights accrue to future pensions, immigration only delays the problem. In any case, it might be a good idea to allow free immigration to Spain in exchange for not accrue rights to Social Security.
The most important practical advice to draw from the above chart is simple: save and invest. If you trust your retirement to politicians, you will end up poor and feeling cheated.
US vs. Spain
Social Security Beneficiaries, Costs, Employment
Notes for Above Table
- Employment and beneficiary numbers are in thousands.
- I computed the total annual cost as monthly benefit * 12 * number of beneficiaries. That method will tend to overstate annual costs slightly vs. totaling every month individually. Thus, the total cost may vary slightly from other published figures.
Average Monthly Social Security Benefit
Total Annual Cost of Social Security 1967-Present
Social Security Beneficiaries vs. Total Non-Farm Employment
Ratio of Workers to Social Security Beneficiaries
Social Security Benefits Analysis
- The ratio of workers to beneficiaries peaked in 1999 at 2.927 to 1.
- The ratio of workers to beneficiaries was 2.361 to 1 at the end of 2012.
- The ratio of workers to beneficiaries is falling fast and will continue to fall fast for a decade as the baby boomer population ages.
- The average payout and the number of payouts are both rising fast
- Total Social Security payouts (a multiplication of two rising numbers) are on an unsustainable exponential growth path.
The system is currently running a deficit. Trends say that deficit is going to worsen with each passing year unless benefits are cut and/or taxes are hiked.
The next chart is courtesy of Reader Tim Wallace in a January 11, post.
Social Security Burden on Non-Farm Workers
Social Security Cliff Reading
Tip of the Iceberg
Unfortunately, Social Security is just a tip of the unsustainable payout promises problem. Public union pensions are trillions of dollars underfunded and several cities in California have gone bankrupt over those promises.
Detroit went bankrupt for the same reason as did Central Falls, Rhode Island (see Central Falls Set to File Bankruptcy Exit Plan; 50% Pension Reductions, 40% Slash in Police and Fire Budgets Coming Up).
- Philadelphia: 5th Largest City in US is Effectively Bankrupt; Mayor Holds Closed Meeting With Wall Street to Discuss Asset Sales
- Houston: CPAs state Houston is Bankrupt
- LA: Mayor of Los Angeles Says “Bankruptcy is Not an Option” (Of Course It Is)
- New York Cities: Public Pension Ponzi Scheme – New York Cities Borrow From Pension Plan to Make Contributions
- Baltimore: Time for Baltimore to “Pull a Vallejo” and Declare Bankruptcy
- Miami: Miami Commissioner Says Bankruptcy is City’s Best Hope; Chris Christie Says New Jersey Careens Towards Becoming Greece
- Chicago: Chicago’s Mayor Daley Discusses Bankruptcy For City Pensions
- Scranton: Scranton Mayor Slashes All Public Worker Wages to $7.25 per Hour, Including Police, Fire, His Own; City Effectively Bankrupt
- Harrisburg: Pennsylvania State Capital Files for Bankruptcy
- Zombified Cities Roundup: Detroit Becomes Dumping Ground for the Dead; Financial Urgency in Miami; Oakland Pension Time Bomb; How Pensions Crashed Stockton and San Bernardino
Vallejo Round Two
Vallejo, California went bankrupt about two years ago and is headed there again because it did not shed pension promises in bankruptcy: Vallejo, Mired in Pension Debt Again; Lesson for Stockton and Detroit – Shed Those Pension Obligations Now!
As I said in the above link, Stockton and Detroit have a choice. They can cut pensions now, or cut them later in a second bankruptcy, just like Vallejo will.
Pension Promises Not Sacrosanct
Yet people keep emailing me that pension are guaranteed by law. Tell that to residents of Central Falls. Their pensions were cut 50% in bankruptcy.
Here’s reality: haircuts are coming. Unions need to negotiate benefit cuts now, in a sensible manner (with the highest beneficiaries taking the biggest cuts). The alternative is across the board benefit cuts à la Central Falls.
Meanwhile please consider the solid advice from Libre Mercado:
“The most important practical advice to draw from the above chart is simple: save and invest. If you trust your retirement to politicians [or promises], you will end up poor and feeling cheated.”
Mike “Mish” Shedlock