About the Article

With the decline of defined-benefit pensions, workers have few attractive options for obtaining a guaranteed benefit in retirement to supplement Social Security. This Article details a new solution to this problem: allow Americans to purchase supplemental Social Security benefits, which we call “Social Security Plus.” We show how workers could use this new “public option” to roll their existing defined contribution accounts or other retirement savings into Social Security and thereby obtain a guaranteed, pre-determined supplement to their primary Social Security benefit. Social Security Plus would not only provide a lifetime annuity, but also create what is effectively a new investment vehicle, since workers would be able to deposit supplemental contributions at any time and receive back a guaranteed benefit based on their age and other characteristics. Thus, workers have the opportunity to stop worrying about investments that charge excessive fees or fail to keep up with inflation as well as about annuity companies that might go belly up. We discuss how this proposal could be designed and implemented, as well as lay out accompanying reforms that would maximize the chance that workers would use this new opportunity to put away additional retirement savings.

About the Authors

Professor Ian Ayres is the William K. Townsend Professor of Law at Yale Law School, the Anne Urowsky Professional Fellow in Law, and a Professor at Yale’s School of Management; B.A., Yale University; J.D., Yale Law School; Ph.D. in Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Professor Ayres clerked for the Honorable James K. Logan for the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Professor Ayres has published eleven books and over one hundred articles on a variety of topics and previously taught at Harvard, Illinois, Northwestern, Stanford, and Virginia Law Schools.

Professor Jacob S. Hacker is the Stanley Resor Professor of Political Science and Director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University; B.A., Harvard University; Ph.D., Yale University. He has authored and co-authored over five books along with several articles, with his research interests in health policy. Professor Hacker has previously taught at the University of California, Berkeley.

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The Elder Law Journal

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