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Social Security versus Private Retirement Accounts: A Historical Analysis

This paper compares Social Security benefits relative to those paid from private investments: specifically, whether 2003 retirees would gain more retirement income if they had invested their payroll taxes in private accounts during their working years. Three different retirement ages and four possible earnings levels are considered for two private investments—6-month CDs or the S&P 500. On average, the results suggest less than 5 percent of current retirees would receive a higher monthly benefit with Social Security. Several Social Security reform proposals are described.

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