As someone who was born at the end of the Baby Boom and who's been paying into the Social Security system since I got my first McJob as a teenager in 1982, I'm worried that when it comes time for me to get my cut, there'll be nothing left. After all, according to USA Today, I'm one of 80 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 who could qualify for Social Security and Medicare in the next 22 years.
The first wave of Boomers broke into the Social Security system this week, when 62-year-old Kathleen Casey-Kirschling -- whose midnight birth on Jan. 1, 1946, makes her America's first Boomer -- signed on for benefits. This opened the floodgates for the 3.2 million citizens who hit the big 6-2 next year, making them eligible for early retirement. According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, the average age at which workers in this country start receiving Social Security is 63.
Those who've crunched all these numbers say that if this trend continues, Social Security rolls will increase by 34 million by 2030, and Medicare by 35 million. The Social Security trust fund will start paying out more benefits than it collects by 2017 and is projected to deplete its reserves by 2041.
While the good folks in Congress all seem to agree that something needs to be done to save Social Security, our elected officials are at loggerheads as to exactly what this something should be. It's hard to say if this will change under our new president: Of the two parties' front-runners, Obama, Clinton and Huckabee all favor keeping Social Security solvent, while McCain wants to develop a plan to would allow workers to invest a portion of their payroll tax in private accounts they'd manage themselves.
Given the dearth of solutions coming out of Washington, the Concord Coalition was inspired to organize a "Fiscal Wake-up Tour" to make voters more aware of the Social Security situation and ask us what compromises we'd be willing to make to ensure that future generations get their bennies. the coalition is also asking presidential candidates to explain how they plan to address the long-term fiscal challenges they'll face if elected.
The tour has caught the attention of the White House. At a recent press briefing, Jim Nussle, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said, "This Fiscal Wake-Up Tour, I think, has been one that has been waking up members of Congress. And you see that in a bipartisan way."
How Congress will answer this wake-up call remains to be seen.