Social Security:

Analysis of a Proposal to Privatize Trust Fund Reserves

HRD-91-22: Published: Dec 12, 1990. Publicly Released: Jan 11, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed a congressional proposal to create a new system of Individual Social Security Retirement Accounts (ISSRA), in which workers could place accumulated social security reserves for private-sector investment.

GAO found that: (1) the proposal's effect on national saving was unclear; (2) ISSRA could be integrated with the existing progressive benefit structure and, given favorable financial market conditions, could improve retirement incomes; (3) ISSRA could alter the mix of public and private savings; (4) ISSRA impact on individual retirement incomes depended largely on how ISSRA investment returns compared with social security returns; (5) ISSRA raised numerous administrative difficulties and policy issues that needed resolution before it could be considered a fully operational alternative for the use of trust fund reserves; and (6) variations in market returns could result in some retirees being worse off under ISSRA than they would be under social security, which could generate pressure for the government to guarantee that every retiree gain at least as much under ISSRA as under social security.

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