Will Fields: You can fix Social Security

For many of us who have already graduated and for those who are thinking about their future still, the decisions we make at a young age will impact us all the way through retirement. The jobs we work at and the amount of money we invest in the financial market both hold considerable weight. The saddening fact is that many of us will not receive high-paying corporate law firm positions right out of law school or become the CEO of a fortune 500 company. On top of that, we will have accumulated debt that will take a huge portion of our savings and future earnings.

Another thing we can be sure of is that one day we will face retirement, though it is almost impossible to consider this now, and we will find ourselves in the hands of the Social Security system. All is not well for this program, however, and we must take an active step in finding solutions before we get too far down the career path.

Even though age 65 and retirement time seem so far away, the decisions we make in our twenties will ultimately affect our quality of life in the future. In our everyday lives, we enjoy the sense of security and the feeling of control. Whether it be in deciding our class schedule for the semester or who to spend time with in the upcoming week, we all make choices. In an ownership society, individuals are empowered to make those choices, become independent from government handouts and make themselves owners.

The bad news is that with each paycheck we cash, there are doubts about whether the current retirement system will be in existence in 15 years. Self-employment and other forms of entrepreneurship are highly sensitive to tax rates such as the Social Security payroll tax. Such measures will only hurt the private sector and make it more difficult for individuals to pay to their retirement. In the end, that money will end up going to a system that is fundamentally flawed, and a system that many are predicting will run out of cash by the time we reach retirement age.

These are the looming threats that we are about to encounter as we graduate. There is a solution, though. As young individuals, we can take part in the Social Security debate, no matter what we think the solution should be. Encouraging friends and family members to participate in this discourse can be effective in bringing solutions to the forefront.

Being involved in a student organization tasked with deliberating this issue, such as the non-partisan Students for Saving Social Security group, is a great way to unite individuals behind the common cause of repairing this system. Many professionals have already addressed their concerns about the retirement system with their members of Congress, and we can do the same.

Many young adults talk about the careers that they hope to obtain and the money they work hard for. Why not think about the investments that can support us and our future families as we retire? These issues are as real for us now as they will be in 45 years.

-The author, a graduate student, is the National Coordinator for Students for Saving Social Security.

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