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Martha Shedden

Retirement Planning > Social Security > Claiming Strategies

Martha Shedden Holds Out Hope for Social Security 2100 Bill, Urges Caution in Reform

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In 2023, the Social Security system will be in its 88th year of operation, and in many ways, the key federal income insurance program is showing its age.

According to Martha Shedden, the president and co-founder of the National Association of Registered Social Security Analysts, the stakes could not be higher when it comes to contemplating updates to Social Security. That is why she continues to closely track the Social Security 2100 bill and a variety of other reform proposals in Congress, such as the plan put forward by the Republican Study Committee to gradually raise the full retirement age to 70.

Looking to 2023, Shedden urges all financial advisors to study the existing rules and regulations that govern the operation of Social Security. Doing so will help them help their clients in new and exciting ways, Shedden says, and it will also prepare financial planners to have discussions about potential updates and reforms.

Recounted in the Q&A below are highlights from a new interview with Shedden, in which she discusses her hopes and concerns for Social Security in 2023 and beyond.

THINKADVISOR: Can you please tell us about the work of the National Association of Registered Social Security Analysts?

MARTHA SHEDDEN: Our organization helps to ensure that Americans get the most out of the Social Security program by educating the financial advisory and insurance agent communities about the ins and outs of claiming and benefits maximization.

In 2023, there will be a tremendous demand for professionals that understand Social Security claiming. More than 70 million baby boomers will collect Social Security in the future. They will need personalized answers to their claiming questions.

By studying up on Social Security, financial professionals can help their clients potentially gain tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in incremental Social Security income. That’s our primary goal — providing actionable insight about the program’s current rules and related information.

We are also very engaged in monitoring the legislative outlook for Social Security.

Are there specific pieces of legislation or specific proposals you are tracking closely?

Yes, we are tracking the Social Security 2100 bill very closely and we are holding out hope that it could be brought to a vote during the lame-duck session. Among its provisions, the legislation would adopt a consumer price index for the elderly as the basis of the annual benefit cost-of-living adjustment, and it would reapply the Social Security payroll tax to annual wages above $400,000.

We know that 2034, the projected date when the trust fund will run dry, is quickly approaching. The closer we get to the mid-2030s, the more dire the situation will become, and the more drastic the potential actions that will need to be taken.

We are also tracking the proposal from the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives. I will tell you that my personal view is that their solution is not really feasible as put forward. In my view, pushing the full retirement age back again from 67 to 70 seems like a real stretch. Working that late in life is by no means a given, even for people who want to.

The overarching comment I will make is that we believe any reforms should be undertaken to help to strengthen the system, without reducing the valuable benefits on which so many millions of Americans already rely and will rely on in the future. I would also say that serious caution is needed when undertaking any reforms, and that real actuarial professionals have to be involved.

Given the complexity of the program and its importance, the potential for negative unintended consequences is very real.

Is there one Social Security myth or misunderstanding you wish you could do away with in 2023?

One is that too many people believe Social Security is just going to disappear in 2034 or 2035, when really that is not the case at all. If no action is taken by Congress, which we view as unlikely, a substantial amount of benefits would still be payable at that time.

This misunderstanding about the solvency of the program is one of the reasons, I believe, that so many people elect to take Social Security early. They may be doing so out of a false belief that the program is going to disappear in a decade.

The other misconception that is really problematic is when couples view their claiming decisions as individuals. They think that, because they worked as individuals, their claiming decisions don’t need to be considered collectively. In reality, the opposite is true.

I would finally just point out that there is a lot of appreciation for the program across all generations, including among the young. On our staff, we have two passionate young professionals who are in their late 20s or early 30s, and their enthusiasm about the Social Security program is so inspiring.


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