The predictable surprise: The unraveling of the U.S. retirement system

Video

Post-Event Summary
The uncertain future of the U.S. retirement system should be a concern for all current and future workers. On Monday at AEI, AEI’s Andrew G. Biggs spoke with Sylvester J. Schieber, former chairman of the Social Security Advisory Board and the author of "The Predictable Surprise: The Unraveling of the U.S. Retirement System," about the problems apparent in the system.

Schieber insisted that, for decades, the impending retirement crisis has been ignored and that much of the problem stems from the fact that benefits must be funded as they are accruing. But since we cannot change past ignorance and mistakes, we must focus on our future.

He described this future as one of skyrocketing retirement contributions with shrinking returns -- a burden that will fall on the young baby boomers and subsequent generations. Produced by multiple causes, including delayed retirement funding, longer life expectancies, and a surge in the labor force as female baby boomers began to work, the problem will persist unless action is taken to fix the employer-provided retirement benefit and tax system.

To remedy this dilemma, Schieber proposed that the U.S. find some alternative source of funding or adjust benefits on an equitable basis. Although American retirees are relying on a broken system that is not going away, Schieber asserted that it can be improved.
--Sam Sharpe

Event Descripton
Social Security will be insolvent by the early 2030s, and many Americans have saved too little on their own to make up the difference. In "The Predictable Surprise: The Unraveling of the U.S. Retirement System," Sylvester J. Schieber, former head of the Social Security Advisory Board and one of the nation's leading experts on private-sector pensions, shows that policymakers should have seen and heeded the signs of trouble decades ago.

In this AEI book forum, AEI resident scholar Andrew Biggs, a former principal deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration, will speak with Schieber about his book, including where things went wrong and ideas for how to put American retirement systems, public and private, back on track.

Full video will be posted within 24 hours.

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About the Author

 

Andrew G.
Biggs
  • Andrew G. Biggs is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studies Social Security reform, state and local government pensions, and public sector pay and benefits.

    Before joining AEI, Biggs was the principal deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA), where he oversaw SSA’s policy research efforts. In 2005, as an associate director of the White House National Economic Council, he worked on Social Security reform. In 2001, he joined the staff of the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security. Biggs has been interviewed on radio and television as an expert on retirement issues and on public vs. private sector compensation. He has published widely in academic publications as well as in daily newspapers such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. He has also testified before Congress on numerous occasions. In 2013, the Society of Actuaries appointed Biggs co-vice chair of a blue ribbon panel tasked with analyzing the causes of underfunding in public pension plans and how governments can securely fund plans in the future.

    Biggs holds a bachelor’s degree from Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland, master’s degrees from Cambridge University and the University of London, and a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics.

  • Phone: 202-862-5841
    Email: andrew.biggs@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Kelly Funderburk
    Phone: 202-862-5920
    Email: kelly.funderburk@aei.org

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