Before you graduate college you should probably know…

Kelly Skahan

Regardless of major, school, hometown, or background, for each student on campus one common goal looms far in the distance: graduation. However, a diploma isn’t the only piece of paper you’ll receive on that fateful day when you leave Villanova forever; with it comes a one-way ticket to the ever-present and ever-pressing locale affectionately known as “the real world.” With that in mind, The Villanovan has decided to do its part in preparing students for heading out on their own in the coming years by explaining the things college doesn’t always teach you before graduation. From finding a job with benefits to finding a decent roommate in a new city to staying involved politically, religiously, and socially when the Wildcat Newswire is a thing of the past, we hope the topics covered will help you make that step into reality not only as an adult, but as a grown-up as well.

This Week: Social Security

Over the past decade or so, debate has raged over the future of social security. Set into motion during the Great Depression, the program initially aimed to support the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, the widowed and the orphaned, all of whom were unable to garner an income.

Though there were many in need during the early days of Social Security, the fledgling program did not have the funds saved to support those it aimed to help. As a result, its structure differs from that of a typical savings plan or 401(k) program.

The current workforce, essentially, supports current retirees. From each working employee’s salary, Social Security takes 7.65 percent of the total, up to a $70,000 in income. The employer pays an additional 7.65 percent, which also goes directly to Social Security. This sum then is redistributed by the program to current beneficiaries, who receive a monthly check. The amount in the check is determine by the amount of income from which they paid Social Security in the past, so those with a higher income in the past receive a larger check than those who had received a lesser income.

The program was initially successful as it funded itself even though it started without any money at all, and workers were able to trust that when they eventually became beneficiaries themselves, they would also receive support from the workforce at that time.

One major flaw in the plan, however, is that it does not take into account population spikes, one of the most worrisome of which is now looming on the horizon. The impending retirement of millions of Baby Boomers will inevitably be draining on the Social Security system, which will suddenly have to support a large amount of beneficiaries without a proportional increase in the employees from which to draw funds.

It is also argued that the system does not sufficiently account for those with an income greater than $70,000. An individual who makes $200,000 each year pays a substantially smaller portion of their income to Social Security than one who makes $70,000 each year, but both individuals’ monthly checks as beneficiaries will be equal, which some point out does not equally allow for the maintenance of the lifestyles to which each individual has become accustomed.

A major concern is also the possibility of Social Security ending before a generation has the chance to benefit from it. For example, those working in 2008 pay Social Security to support those who are retired in 2008. If the program were cancelled in 2009, though, the workers of 2008 would have supported a plan from which they would never benefit.

As a result, Social Security must continue indefinitely in order to truly provide for all those who support it, an idea many see as unlikely and impractical. Some argue that a pension, savings plan or similar program would be more beneficial to the current workforce by guaranteeing that they would see a return on the money they provide to the system. However, such a program would also create a gap in benefits by not providing for the current generation of retirees, who did not participate in such a savings plan, instead of contributing to Social Security on the whole.