Real people mull Social Security's future
January 6, 1997
From Correspondent Susan Candiotti
MIAMI (CNN) -- Dyatha Colebrook is more than 20 years away from retirement, and talk that Social Security could go under by 2029 worries her -- but does not surprise her.
"I'm not figuring on Social Security at all in my retirement," Colebrook said.
For years, the 44-year-old mother of two has been saving hard. As a police sergeant in Dade County, she makes $55,000 a year and invests in a police department savings plan.
"I think we need to start early in our careers, thinking about long-term investments," Colebrook said. "We need to be much better informed and that's happening naturally -- but perhaps too late for us, for our generation."
But when it comes to savings, she's ahead of Susan Baggesen, a 21-year-old college student who works full-time as a music store clerk while also working on a psychology degree.
Baggesen said she makes $13,000 a year, and does not participate in a company savings plan because savings are just not possible for her now.
"I would hope Social Security would work out, and I would be able to retire on the government," Baggesen said.
Making Social Security continue to work for Baggesen, Colebrook and millions like them was the objective of a federal advisory panel, which forwarded three reform proposals Monday.
One proposal would keep the current system intact while diverting a portion of payroll taxes into the stock market from 2000 to 2015.
Another would create mandatory individual saving accounts, owned by workers but managed by the government, that supplement existing benefits.
A third would create a double-tier system with a flat-rate pension plan supplemented by Personal Security Retirement Accounts, owned and managed by individuals.
Of the three options, Baggesen likes the idea of mandatory savings accounts that let taxpayers choose how their contributions would be invested.
She likes it because "it would be up to me, and I wouldn't be just handing my money over and hoping whoever is handling my money would be doing a good job," she said.
But Colebrook wonders if most Americans would take the time needed to learn how to invest soundly.
"Most of us don't really read the stock markets. We don't have a lot of information on funds, and so probably most of our choices will be completely uninformed."
Unwise investments, Baggesen said, would be a person's own fault.
If there's one thing both women have in common, it's that neither is certain the government can be counted on to find a solution to make sure Social Security will be there for them.
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