Middle-Aged Americans Weigh Social Security Options

Scott Sokolich and Jeanne Koebbe

St. Louis-area residents Scott Sokolich and Jeanne Koebbe are worried that Social Security won't be available to help them when they retire. John Ydstie, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption John Ydstie, NPR

As reforming Social Security takes center stage in Washington, perhaps no group is watching the debate more closely than middle-aged Americans. The new private accounts President Bush has been promoting could be available to people up to age 55. And potential benefit cuts aimed at keeping the system solvent could have a significant effect on workers in their 40s.

In the second of three reports on how different generations view Social Security, NPR's John Ydstie talks with middle-age Americans about a system that's been a bedrock of U.S. retirement — and politics — since its creation.

Two Takes from Economists

Zandi says the private accounts proposed by President Bush will not solve the projected gap in Social Security funding, but will create a system of winners and losers.

Listen: Mark Zandi, Chief Economist of Economy.com

Smetters, who worked on President Bush's Social Security commission, says private accounts won't deliver higher total earnings for participants, but they will raise benefits for the lowest-income workers.

Listen: Kent Smetters, Assoc. Professor at The Wharton School of the Univ. of Pennsylvania

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