Archive for 'Social Security'

How to Retire Early with Less Money

“EARLY RETIREMENT”.  It seems to be the most popular phrase in our conversations for many of us. Is it because so many of us just hate our jobs, our bosses and/or our co-workers? Is it all of the above? Maybe you just heard that your wife’s goofy second cousin just retired at 49 with a huge retirement package and that’s driving you nuts. Or it just may be that a large portion our population, The Baby Boomers, are coming to retirement age all at once. Whatever the case may be, if you’re in that age group, you need to start thinking about some of your options for retirement like Social Security, Nursing Homes and other important decisions.

How to retire is one of the most pressing issues of the day. Countless readers have turned to Seeking Alpha to handle the challenges that face retirees today. Retirees need to know how to plan their cash flows, how to build a steady portfolio, and what levels of expectations are sensible. It is painful to hear from retirees who state they “NEED” a 14% return per year. Even with high volatility and risky investments, sustaining 14% annually is an insanely aggressive plan, and it certainly wouldn’t be likely to come in a steady sequence.

Today, I will be using hypothetical situations many readers may face. They aren’t professional investors and don’t have a huge portfolio. It would be easy to plan retirement with $10 million. So instead, let’s make it less: $500,000.

Market environment

The current interest rates available on bonds are low. Bonds are a difficult way to generate income unless it’s with a huge portfolio. The market is seeing all-time record highs day after day. Investing today should be done with caution. The investments I would choose are companies that are large and have a strong track record. A retiree today could invest in an income portfolio and expect solid dividend yields. Large companies with a great track record are unlikely to cut their dividend – even in harsh times. Short-term volatility of the market may be significant, but the income source should remain almost entirely intact.

Nursing homes

Nursing homes, for a prolonged period of time, would almost certainly drive most retirees into bankruptcy or an early grave. Skilled care costs are high enough to decimate a retirement portfolio. If you are considering this option, or know someone who is, please speak with a financial planner about designing a legal structure to protect your capital in the event of a forced bankruptcy.

 Social Security

On a sheer numbers standpoint, there is definitely something to be said about waiting as long as possible to take SS. However, there’s also something to be said about taking it early. A lot of this depends on the individual retiree and what’s important to them. How long do you believe you will live? How will your quality of life be for the years you are not collecting SS? Are you carrying any high interest rate debt? I urge investors/retirees to be honest with themselves.

For this scenario, I will be having the retiree taking out SS as soon as possible. If an investor is unsure of whether they will live to be 65 or 105, taking it early may be wise. Let’s say if an investor at 63 pulled SS today, it would come out to $1,500 monthly. This comes out to $18,000 a year.


Every retiree or future retiree faces their own unique challenges. Being committed to a plan and being frugal is extremely important when planning for retirement. I urge you to be diligent in your planning. Plan for every expense you can think of. After that’s done, see what expenses can be cut/reduced. Every retiree doesn’t get to retirement with $10 million, but we all have the capacity to do our due diligence.

Portfolio investing

Let’s start looking at building a portfolio that is filled with strong dividend investments. An investing strategy should help you sleep at night. Investing should not keep you up at all hours of the night wondering if your 16% dividend yielding company is going to go bankrupt tomorrow. I will be focusing on dividends to supplement income. The plan is to buy and hold 20 of the best dividend stocks on the market.

Let’s begin!

MO and PM

My first and second picks are probably obvious: Altria Group (MO) and Philip Morris (PM). I consider MO’s dividend history applied to PM. Altria Group has raised their dividend for 47 years. Both of these companies have massive market share and sell an addictive market. They are also showing the ability to transition into new products. Philip Morris is testing their new technology in international markets: IQOS. The FDA announced a plan to reduce nicotine in combustible cigarettes. Since then, MO’s price has been down. I believe this is good news for Altria Group. Once MO is cleared to sell IQOS domestically, sales should go up substantially.

PG, MMM, and JNJ

Third, fourth, and fifth picks:

Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) has 60 years of dividend increases. 3M (MMM) has 58 years of dividend increases. Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) has 54 years of increases. All of these companies have something else in common: product diversity. Within their sector, these companies are giants. All three have products that are probably in your residence. When it comes to dividend portfolios, these three companies should be at the top.

KO and PEP

Sixth and seventh:

Coke (KO) and Pepsi (PEP) combined come to 98 years of dividend raises. While the growth of either company looking forward is debatable, their ability to give out dividends is not. I’m not thrilled with the direction Pepsi’s management is driving the company in. I did not pick either of these up for excellent growth potential. KO and PEP have a great dividend and they sell junk food. Junk food sales are going down, but KO and PEP are transitioning into healthier products.


LOW and HD

Eighth and ninth:

Lowe’s (LOW) and Home Depot (HD) are the kings of their niche. I find it difficult to believe a new player will be able to come in anytime soon. When I’m deciding which one to shop at, it’s almost always which one is closer.

O and NNN

Tenth and eleventh:

Realty Income (O) and National Retail Properties (NNN) are two of the strongest REITs on the market. Both are exceptional at choosing tenants. In a market that is seeing harsh criticism, both are putting up extraordinary numbers. When it comes to yields near 5%, these are two of the best. Exceptional management and a strong dividend history separate these two from most REITs.

T and VZ

Twelfth and Thirteenth:

AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) are the two gatekeepers of mobile internet access. If telecommunications can be too big to fail, these would be the first players to receive the designation. These are leaders in their sector with strong dividend yields and cheap P/E ratios.



It’s hard not to put Apple (AAPL) into a retirement portfolio. The dividend yield isn’t all that high, but best of luck finding a safer one. Easily covered dividend, massive company, and a tech allocation is good for diversification. Apple saw a significant rally in price recently, but long-term, this is one of the safest tech options.



Exxon Mobile (XOM) is a huge oil company with low beta. XOM is a good fit for almost any dividend growth portfolio. XOM’s enormous size gives them political influence. It would be hard for oil to become obsolete when oil donates heavily to congress.

V and MA

Sixteenth and Seventeenth:

Visa (V) and MasterCard (MA) are another two companies that dominate a sector. Visa is the leader in electronic payments. The company is “everywhere” and we are moving towards a cashless society. The service Visa provides is difficult to replicate. MasterCard is a strong competitor of Visa.



Wal-Mart (WMT) is arguably the king of retail. They’ve shown great progress in the e-commerce market. I believe WMT is protected if retail continues to fall off. Wal-Mart’s rapid growth in e-commerce makes them second only to Amazon (AMZN).




McDonald’s (MCD) is the king of fast food. The company also has 40 years of dividend raises. The dividend isn’t as impressive as some on the list, but the consecutive raises are impressive. MCD may have questionable future growth with competition from mobile ordering making other food more accessible. However, I don’t see the dividend going anywhere.



Simon Property Group (SPG) is still going to be around decades from now. Investors are generally terrified of the mall REIT space. Anything associated with retail gets hammered. However, the malls in SPG’s portfolio are exceptionally strong and maintained well. Even as e-commerce grows, the malls are not going to die. Stores will be replaced, but the landlord should be fine.


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Seniors to Get a Real Raise in Social Security

Senior Citizens

Social Security gave out a zero increase in 2016 and a measly 0.3 % increase in 2017 which was just enough to cover the added cost of Medicare premiums for most seniors. Essentially a zero increase in spendable cash to offset inflation. This coming year, in 2018 we’ll finally see a decent, not great, but decent increase of about 2.2%. This could help a lot of retiree’s as it’s estimated that about 25% rely on Social Security as their only source of income.

There are several major changes to the Social Security and Medicare programs that are slated to take effect a few months from now, beginning in 2018. Some consist of good news, relatively speaking. One change is not so good and will be decried by seniors who enjoy traveling to national parks.

Biggest Social Security Raise in Five Years

Coming off of a zero cost-of-living adjustment in 2016 and a miserly .3 percent COLA in 2017, the predicted raise of 2.2% for 2018 is a big deal, yet still relatively small. After all with inflation running around 2.0% a 2.2% raise doesn’t leave much room for error.

It also serves us well to remember that the inflation rate faced by the group affected by this Social Security change is in most cases higher than the quoted 2% inflation rate. This is because the senior population is faced with medical, medical insurance, deductible, co-pay and drug cost inflation that easily can top 10% or more.

Depending upon what portion that these medical expenses represent in the retiree’s budget, that 10% inflation rate applied toward those expenses could easily wipe out the benefit of a 2.2% COLA adjustment.

So, all in all, this was a modest, yet qualified piece of good news that came out of Washington, D.C. when the Social Security and Medicare trustees projected that Social Security recipients would receive a 2.2 percent cost-of-living adjustment in 2018.

It would be the largest increase since 2012, when the COLA rose 3.6 percent. Social Security recipients received no cost-of-living adjustment in 2016 and just 0.3 percent in 2017.

Average Social Security Benefit Impact

According to the Social Security Administration, the average retired worker brought home $1,368.67 a month in June 2017. Therefore, a 2.2% COLA would translate into an extra $361.33 a year in 2018, or $30.11 a month.

Social Security provides vital income protection to workers and their families. Benefits are indexed annually for inflation When the SSA determines, as they did in 2016 that inflation is 0%, then no COLA will be applied to the following year’s benefit.

Unlike savings accounts, which can be run down, Social Security benefits last a lifetime. Because of this aspect, many investors have come to view their S.S. benefit akin to an annuity, or guaranteed bond component, even better than a fixed income investment because it is inflation-adjusted.

Social Security incorporates a progressive benefit formula that ensures that those with low lifetime earnings receive proportionately larger benefits. Social Security plays a crucial role in reducing poverty among older people. Without Social Security, 41 percent of all older Americans would be in poverty. Because of this large role that Social Security plays in our economy, only 8.8 percent were below the poverty line in 2015.

Relative Importance Of The Social Security Backstop

Social Security is the main source of retirement income for most Americans. Approximately half of people age 65 and older depend on Social Security for more than half of their retirement income. About one-quarter rely on Social Security for all or nearly all of their income. As a reflection of how important this program is, among poor households headed by someone of retirement age, Social Security is virtually the only source of retirement income.

Retire smarter


Retirement: What Exactly is the Magic Number?



Retirement! It’s something that most of us look forward to. A time that we can finally tell our boss to shove it, if we feel like it. Just think about it for a minute. You give your boss ample notice that you’re going to retire, or maybe not. Either way, the big day finally gets here and you’re walking out the door with your personal belongings for the last time. You leave behind all the stress, the headaches, the politics, the 5AM wakeups and the traffic jams. Now you can play golf all you want, go fishing or just stare out the window. Everything is great. Or is it? Have you done all the planning necessary for your retirement? In other words, do you have enough money to keep on being retired? Here’s a few things to consider before you take that big step.

The other day a reader left the following comment;

I read a lot and figure someone needs $2M to really have a good shot at living well and retiring with few worries. Roger your thoughts?
The reader also shared that he is 58 with the implication that he is close to retirement age. Another reader left a comment on a Seeking Alpha post of mine agreeing that $2 million is the figure. Between the two comments I feel like I am being asked in part for my personal views and choices.

The best generic advice I can give is to live below your means, don’t accumulate debt, save a lot and if you ever do need to fund your expenses/lifestyle out of your savings take no more than 1% per quarter. My use of the word generic is not meant as a slight, I believe the above combo is an essential foundation to a successful financial plan and we live by the first three now (we are a few decades from the withdrawal stage).

Assuming the 4% rule, a $2 million portfolio would allow for $80,000 in portfolio withdrawals. Are you then going to assume getting social security or not? How does the $80,000 (plus social security or not) compare with how much you live on now? Not how much you earn but how much you live on.

There are several types of expenses that we have to contend with and try to plan for one way or another. I’ve written about these before; things that probably can be easily planned, those that cannot and one-offs–things like vet bills, new tires and home repair.

Our recent three foot snow storm lead me to come up with another category which is things we probably will need. At some point I may not be able to shovel out a three foot snow storm. If we want to stay where we are then at some point we will need either a snow blower or an ATV that we put a plow blade on. These are not disastrous expenses but also not $100 to go to a baseball game either. We have a long uphill driveway which probably rules out a snow blower– the cheapest option. A more expensive option would be the ATV and blade and an even more expensive option would be moving. Where we are it would not be wise to rely on being able to hire someone to do this for us.


There’s a lot to consider when contemplating retirement. If you haven’t done so yet, now may be a good time to talk to a Financial Planner.

Equifax (NYSE: EFX) Upgrades Identity Protection Plan

Equifax (NYSE: EFX) Upgrades Identity Protection Plan-Image via CrunchBase

Equifax (NYSE: EFX), a leading provider of credit information and identity protection solutions announced the addition of lost wallet assistance to its consumer credit monitoring and identity protection product Equifax Complete Premier Plan™.  The new feature provides consumers with around-the-clock access to a team of identity theft specialists who can assist them with completing the necessary steps to restore the contents of their lost or stolen wallet, including canceling and reissuing driver’s licenses, passports, Social Security cards and credit cards.

Equifax Complete Premier empowers consumers with the confidence of credit monitoring and the peace of mind of identity protection and includes the most comprehensive line-up of consumer product features from Equifax—credit scores, three-bureau credit monitoring, the Automatic Fraud Alert feature, Internet scanning and identity theft insurance.  The addition of lost wallet assistance to the credit monitoring and identity protection essentials of the product gives consumers yet another hassle-free way to safeguard their identity.

For more information on how to protect your identity, visit the ID Theft Resources Tab on the Equifax Facebook page at  For more details about lost wallet assistance and Equifax Complete Premier, visit

About Equifax

Equifax is a global leader in consumer and commercial information solutions, providing businesses of all sizes and consumers with information they can trust. We organize and assimilate data on more than 500 million consumers and 81 million businesses worldwide, and use advanced analytics and proprietary technology to create and deliver customized insights that enrich both the performance of businesses and the lives of consumers.

Headquartered in Atlanta, Equifax operates in four continents and 15 countries, is a member of Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500® Index.  Its common stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol EFX. For more information, please visit  Follow us on Facebook at

*The Automatic Fraud Alert feature is made available to consumers by Equifax Information Services LLC and fulfilled on its behalf by Equifax Consumer Services LLC.

The 401K Generator made its debut at last months Million Dollar Round Table Conference in Atlanta. Financial professionals from across the country got a chance to see this game changing educational tool that will literally alter the course of business for them. Buy, hold and pray is dead, the American Wealth Investing Institute developed the 401K Generator as a risk management tool that provides financial professionals the necessary education to help them manage client’s 401k portfolios.

Quote start“The most amazing thing I’ve seen for a long time in the financial world. I have new clients calling me about this all hoiurs of the day, I have never had clients calling me about Insurance or Annuities” Dean Vagnozzi – Financial professional, PAQuote end

It is an investors responsibility to apply some form of risk management to ones retirement portfolio, it time to take charge and select the Mutual Funds your 401K is invested in. Buy, hold and pray is dead, the 401K Generator risk management tool provides financial professionals the necessary education to help their clients 401k portfolios. This tool developed by the American Wealth Investing Institute, gives financial professionals an advantage to grow and build a business with new leads with the benefit of additional revenue streams.

Since 2008 Americans have suffered a stock market crash, a busted mortgage bubble, a real estate disaster and loss of jobs due to huge layoffs. These fallout’s have created a recession that many did not expect or have seen the likes of since the 1930s’. Furthermore, with the crisis facing our Social Security benefits and pensions being almost a thing of the past, many Boomers are now facing the ugly reality that they will outlive their retirement savings.

A recent 2011 [Gallup Poll confirms that the top concern for two-thirds of Americans is that they will not have enough money for retirement, 13% up from 10 years ago. Gallup says that 74% of non-retiree investors plan to rely on a 401K, IRA or other retirement savings in the declining absence of Social Security.

Another survey conducted by the Boston Consulting Group found that investors find retirement planning overwhelming and confusing, 89% want help finding the right formula to manage this process.

Most Americans are busy with family, jobs and other personal activities. As a result they do not want to take the time or be interest to become experts in planning for retirement. Many confess that because of a lack of knowledge, they fall into the buy, hold and pray trap with a 401K plan. Unfortunately, many are not able to get financial professionals help in-spite of the fact that for most Americans, 401Ks represent the second largest investment they will make in life next to buying a home.

The American Wealth Investing Institute developed the 401K Generator which consist of three components; the Mutual Fund Analyzer: a tool that analyzes in seconds, the performance of over 22,000 mutual funds through the use of a proprietary SPX signal created from the S&P 500 Index. The signal includes looking at how fundamental, technical, statistical and seasonal investors look at the market. This knowledge is used to formulate a bullish stance on the market with a risk management bear signal in place. An SPX Bull/Bear Market Newsletter provides an analysis tool and allows users to not only sort by profit and loss on buy and hold but also by their performance had they followed the SPX Bull/Bear Market Newsletter. The third component is email and text message alerts that notify subscribers of a change in the newsletters stance on the market, allowing users to not have to log on every day to find out when things change.

The 401K Generator made its debut at last months Million Dollar Round Table Conference in Atlanta. Financial professionals from across the country got a chance to see this game changing educational tool that will literally alter the course of their business.

For more information or to subscribe to the 401K Generator go to

New Bankrate poll reveals how Americans feel about their finances

With personal debt continuing to mount, Americans are feeling even less secure about their finances this month and struggling to find funds to cover expenses.  A new study released by Bankrate, Inc. shows that that 19% of Americans have admitted to tapping into retirement funds over the past 12 months to cover emergencies. The poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, can be seen in its entirety here:

Among the findings:

  • One in three Americans (33%) says their overall financial situation is worse than 12 months ago.
  • Feelings of financial security among Americans, as measured by the Financial Security Index, sank to a new low of 93.5, down from 97.0 in March and below the previous low of 94.6 in December.
  • The percentage of Americans who are more comfortable with their debt has fallen 3 months in a row (Jan: 27%, Feb: 26%, Mar: 24%, April: 18%).
  • Seven percent of Americans admit to not having any retirement savings.

“Raiding the retirement account prematurely depletes the nest egg, subjects the individual to taxes and penalties, and deals a permanent setback to retirement security because you can never go back and make up for those early withdrawals,” said Greg McBride, CFA, senior financial analyst for

Bankrate’s Financial Security Index results are based on telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,004 adults, ages 18 and older. The interviews were conducted from April 7 to April 10, 2011, by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

About Bankrate, Inc.

The Bankrate network of companies includes,,, Nationwide Card Services, Fee Disclosure, InsureMe and Bankaholic.  Each of these businesses helps consumers to make informed decisions about their personal finance matters. The company’s flagship brand, is a destination site of personal finance channels, including banking, investing, taxes, debt management and college finance. is the leading aggregator of rates and other information on more than 300 financial products, including mortgages, credit cards, new and used auto loans, money market accounts and CDs, checking and ATM fees, home equity loans and online banking fees. reviews more than 4,800 financial institutions in 575 markets in 50 states. In 2008, had nearly 72 million unique visitors. provides financial applications and information to a network of more than 75 partners, including Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO), America Online (NYSE: TWX), The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times (NYSE: NYT).’s information is also distributed through more than 500 newspapers.  Bankrate, Inc. was acquired by Apax Partners, one of the world’s leading private equity investment group, in September 2009.  Apax operates across the United States, Europe and Asia and has more than 30 years of investing experience. For more information on Apax, visit:

Kayleen Yates
Senior Director, Corporate Communications
Bankrate, Inc.
Ph. (917) 368-8677

Web Site:

Little-Known Glitch: “Making Work Pay” Tax Credit Improperly Applied to Millions of Retirees in 2010, Creating Surprises on Tax Returns 

Millions of seniors are in for an unpleasant surprise when they file their tax returns over the next few weeks. The Making Work Pay tax credit was incorrectly applied to an estimated 13.4 million taxpayers in 2010, many of them seniors, according to the Treasury Department. This leaves many retirees unexpectedly owing hundreds of dollars in taxes, and in some cases paying undue penalties for last year.

The tax credit, a provision of the 2009 stimulus legislation, was advanced to taxpayers in 2009 and 2010 in the form of higher payroll and pension checks (due to lower federal income tax withholdings being deducted from them). Eligible people qualified for a credit of up to $400. But millions of taxpayers were either advanced the tax credit without being eligible for it, or they were advanced more of the credit than they were entitled to.

One glitch affected working seniors who also received Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), railroad retirement or veterans’ disability compensation. They qualified for a separate $250 economic stimulus payment that should have reduced their maximum Making Work Pay tax credit to $150. But the IRS withholding tables used by employers did not adjust for those payments.

Seniors receiving pensions were affected as well, because the IRS tables allowed reduced withholdings for pensions — even though such income was not even eligible for the credit, which only applied to income earned from a job.

Married couples who worked and also received a pension are at greatest risk and could potentially owe as much as $1,600.

Because the faulty tax tables caused many people to owe taxes they didn’t expect to owe, the IRS has allowed penalties to be waived for the 2009 and 2010 tax years. But the waivers are only given if taxpayers explicitly request them. According to the Treasury Inspector General, last year virtually no taxpayer surveyed knew they could request a waiver.

The Senior Citizens League supports efforts to repeal or reform the way Social Security benefits are subject to taxation. Even though retirees already paid taxes during their working years to fund the Social Security system, their benefits are also taxed once they rise above $25,000 a year. Every year the benefits of more retirees are subject to tax, because the federal government does not adjust the income levels annually as is routinely done with income tax brackets.

Social Security recipients are also required to compute their taxes using a special formula that factors in “provisional” income, including supposedly “tax-free” money such as tax-free municipal bonds or proceeds from ROTH retirement accounts.

“Many seniors will be surprised to find they owe money on their tax returns for 2010 because of the way the IRS implemented the Making Work Pay tax credit,” said Larry Hyland, chairman of The Senior Citizens League. “We urge affected seniors to file their penalty waivers. We also urge the government to eliminate what amounts to double taxation of Social Security benefits, by removing taxes on those benefits.”

With 1.2 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League is one of the nation’s largest nonpartisan seniors groups. Its mission is to promote and assist members and supporters, to educate and alert senior citizens about their rights and freedoms as U.S. Citizens, and to protect and defend the benefits senior citizens have earned and paid for. The Senior Citizens League is a proud affiliate of The Retired Enlisted Association. Visit for more information.

CONTACT: Luba Vangelova, +1-202-657-6246,

Senior Citizen Wins Arbitration Against Wachovia Bank

Senior Citizen Wins Arbitration Against Wachovia Bank-Image via Wikipedia

A retired Dade County court clerk, whose nest egg was being managed by Wachovia, has been awarded by a FINRA arbitration panel, full recovery of the losses requested, plus interest, attorney fees, forum fees and costs.

The arbitration Award for the retiree follows a claim filed against Wachovia Securities, Inc., by the Securities Law Firm of Mark A. Tepper P.A., for allegedly disregarding that his client needed her retirement lump sum payment to supplement her social security and the remainder of her State pension.

“Investors who believe they’ve been defrauded should always investigate their legal rights to determine the merits of potential claims. We’re very pleased with the finding by FINRA’s arbitration panel in favor of our client,” Tepper said.

Tepper has represented customers in claims against major and regional brokerage firms including Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and UBS.

In the claim against Wachovia, Tepper, a former New York Assistant Attorney General and Chief Trial Counsel at the Bureau of Investor Protection and Securities, alleged that a Wachovia Bank employee directed his client, to speak with a Wachovia financial advisor, instead of opening an IRA account and placing her retirement funds into a money market account.

“Wachovia Securities, Inc., did not act ‘vigorously,’ as required by the SEC, to contact the retiree about this ‘indication of wrongdoing,’ and instead allowed the financial adviser to exploit the retiree,” the claim alleged.

About Mark A. Tepper, P.A. (

Securities Fraud Attorney Mark A. Tepper has earned the reputation of “Investor Advocate” while practicing law for over 35 years and representing investors in criminal and civil actions. A member of the Florida, New York and California Bars he is AV®-rated, the highest rating of lawyers in the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory.


Mark Hopkinson, NewsMark Public Relations


CONTACT: Mark Hopkinson, NewsMark Public Relations, +1-561-852-5767

Web Site:

Federal Officials Convene to Solve Federal Deficits

Federal Officials Convene to Solve Federal Deficits

Federal Officials Convene to Solve Federal Deficits-Image via Wikipedia

Panel Includes Former White House and Cabinet Officials; Former Senate and House Members; Former Governors and Mayors; and Business, Labor, and Non-Profit Leaders

A bipartisan task force of former top federal officials and other leading Americans unveiled a bold, comprehensive plan to solve the problem of soaring federal deficits and debt while dramatically simplifying taxes for businesses and individuals, strengthening Social Security, and creating up to seven million new jobs.

The plan, entitled, Restoring America’s Future, from the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force, co-chaired by former Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici and former White House Budget Director Alice Rivlin, would reduce the debt to below 60 percent of the economy, reduce annual deficits to manageable levels, and balance the “primary budget” (everything other than interest payments) by 2014.  By doing so, the plan would resolve a crisis that, if not addressed, will raise the risks of an economic crisis and weaken the nation over the long term.

“The two of us share strong beliefs that America must learn to live within its means, that the current budget path endangers the future of our country, and that bipartisan action is urgently needed,” Domenici and Rivlin wrote in “An Open Letter to the American People” that accompanies the plan.

“We believe that [the plan] provides a comprehensive, viable path to restore our economy and build a stronger America for future generations and for those around the world who look to the United States for leadership and hope.”

Specifically, the plan would rein in federal health care spending by reforming Medicare and Medicaid; ensure that Social Security can pay benefits for the next 75 years; find savings in other entitlement programs; freeze both defense and non-defense discretionary spending for several years; establish a 6.5 percent Debt Reduction Sales Tax; and enforce all of these savings through strict budget rules.

The Task Force recognizes that the starting point for any effective plan to reduce deficits and debt is a strong economy, and its plan takes steps to strengthen the economy both immediately and in the long run.

For the short term, the plan proposes a “payroll tax holiday” for 2011, suspending Social Security payroll taxes for employers and employees in a move that the Congressional Budget Office estimates could create as many as seven million jobs.  The plan also would phase in the steps to reduce deficits and debt gradually beginning in 2012, so the economy will be strong enough to absorb them.

For the long term, the plan would do more than reduce deficits and debt to economically sustainable levels.  It also would dramatically simplify the tax system, establishing individual tax rates of 15 and 27 percent (from the current high of 35), cutting the corporate tax rate to 27 percent (from the current 35), ending most deductions and credits while simplifying the rest, and ensuring that nearly 90 million households no longer have to file returns.

“We offer this plan as proof that a group of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents can work together to create a balanced package of spending cuts and revenue increases that solves the debt crisis,” Domenici and Rivlin wrote. “Other groups might prefer other combinations of policies to reach the same ends.  We created this plan to show that it can be done – and thereby encourage others from both political parties to bring their ideas to a constructive, respectful, and ultimately successful dialogue.”

Restoring America’s Future will:

  • Revive the economy and create up to 7 million jobs with a one-year “payroll tax holiday,” suspending Social Security payroll taxes for employers and employees for 2011.
  • Phase in steps to reduce deficits and debt gradually, beginning in 2012.
  • Stabilize the debt at less than 60 percent of GDP (an internationally recognized standard), reduce annual deficits to manageable levels, and balance the “primary budget” (everything other than interest payments) by 2014.
  • Create a simple, pro-growth tax system that lowers tax rates, broadens the tax base, and establishes a new 6.5 percent national Debt Reduction Sales Tax.
  • Control health care costs for families, businesses, and government.
  • Strengthen Social Security so it can pay benefits for the next 75 years and beyond.
  • Freeze domestic discretionary spending for four years and defense discretionary spending for five.
  • Find savings by cutting other mandatory programs.
  • Enforce the savings and reform the budget process.

To download the full Restoring America’s Future plan, click here.

About the Bipartisan Policy Center:

In 2007, former U.S. Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole, and George Mitchell formed the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) to develop and promote solutions that can attract the public support and political momentum to achieve real progress. Currently, the BPC focuses on issues including health care, energy, national and homeland security, transportation, science and economic policy. For more information, please visit our website:

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