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According to the 2023 Social Security Trustees Report, Social Security’s combined trust fund reserves were projected to become depleted in 2034, potentially leading to a forced 20 percent cut in payable benefits unless legislative changes are adopted to prevent it. This is one year earlier than the 2022 Trustees Report projected. Assuring that Social Security stays strong means that Congress would need to evaluate very different reform options with complex and wide-ranging impacts—options such as making higher levels of income subject to the portion of payroll taxes dedicated to Social Security or raising Social Security's normal retirement age—and then pass the reforms it chooses so that they can become law. How would you address the solvency issue? In the Academy's Social Security Challenge, develop your proposed reform approach by traveling through a virtual town where you’ll learn residents’ different views on reform ideas and information about their impacts, and puzzle through choices. In the Challenge finale, select and submit your approach from a palette of possible reform options and see how well it works to address the solvency issue.
The financial effects of the reform option provisions in the Challenge come from the Office of the Chief Actuary (OCACT) at the Social Security Administration and are based on the most recent Summary of Provisions that Would Change the Social Security Program.
Learn More With Related Academy Resources
Contingencies magazine cover story (March-April 2023)
Social Security: System Overview and Financial Condition
Issue Brief: An Actuarial Perspective on the 2023 Social Security Trustees Report + accompanying one-pager with highlights
Reform Options In-Depth
Issue Brief: Reforming Social Security Sooner Rather Than Later
Issue Brief: Raising the Social Security Retirement Age
Issue Brief: Social Security Reform: Benefit Formula Options
Issue Brief: Social Security Reform: Taxation Options
All Academy Work on Social Security (incl. all resources above, plus comment letters, other papers, etc.)
The following should be noted when interpreting results from the Social Security Game:
- The 75-year actuarial balance calculation used in the game does not consider significant revenue shortfalls expected to occur after the end of the 75-year projection period, and thus possible solutions illustrated in this game are generally not sufficient to achieve “sustainable solvency,” a concept discussed in the Trustees Report.
- The possible solutions assume immediate adoption of System changes, rather than gradual implementation. If changes to the System are gradually implemented, the required increases in tax revenue or benefit decreases will need to be larger than noted in the game to achieve actuarial balance.
- The success of reforms will depend on how well actual future experience compares with the assumptions made by the trustees and the Social Security actuaries. There is no mechanism in current Social Security law to maintain the program’s actuarial balance once it has been achieved. Thus, there can be no guarantee that the System’s long-term problem will be “solved” for any specific length of time by enacting various system changes.
Reviews and Comments on the Social Security Challenge