What The New Outlook For Social Security Means For You

Whew! The pandemic had a smaller impact on the Social Security trust funds — that is, Social Security’s solvency — than many feared during the depths of the pandemic downturn.

According to the new 2021 annual report from the Social Security Trustees, the depletion date for the combined trust funds —retirement and disability — is 2033 without any changes to program benefits. That would be when today’s 54-year-olds reach Social Security’s Full Retirement Age. Still, that’s one year earlier than last year’s 2034 estimate.

Depletion date or insolvency doesn’t mean bankruptcy — far from it. Funding from payroll tax receipts will be enough to pay 78% of promised benefits after the combined Social Security trust funds depletion date is reached.

“The trust fund report should be seen as a strength,” says Eric Kingson, professor of social work and public administration at Syracuse University and co-author with Nancy Altman of “Social Security Works for Everyone: Protecting and Expanding the Insurance Americans Love and Count On.”

What the Social Security Trustees Said

The report, Kingson said, “provides information for Congress and the public on what needs to be done to maintain benefits.”

And Altman, president of Social Security Works, chair of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition and a rumored possible Biden appointee to run the Social Security Administration, said this when the Trustees report came out on Wednesday: “Today’s report shows that Social Security remains strong and continues to work well, despite a once-in-a-century pandemic. That this year’s projections are so similar to last year’s proves once again that our Social Security system is built to withstand times of crisis, providing a source of certainty in uncertain times.”

But the Social Security Trustees are strikingly cautious about their estimates involving the impact of the pandemic on the Social Security trust fund and its sister trust fund for Medicare, the federal health insurance program primarily for people 65 and older.

Despite the dry language of actuaries, the uncertainty is apparent.

Employment, earnings, interest rates and gross domestic product (GDP) dropped substantially in the second quarter of 2020, the worst economic period of the pandemic. As a result, the decline in payroll-tax receipts which pay for Social Security benefits eroded the trust funds, though the drop in payroll taxes was offset somewhat by higher mortality rates.

“Given the unprecedented level of uncertainty, the Trustees currently assume that the pandemic will have no net effect on the individual long range ultimate assumptions,” they write.

The Pandemic and Social Security Solvency

But, they add, “At this time, there is no consensus on what the lasting effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the long-term experience might be, if any.”

The Trustees say they “will continue to monitor developments and modify the projections in later reports.”

Translation: the status quo remains and the forecast for the pandemic’s effect on Social Security’s solvency is cloudy.

Odds are the coming Social Security financing shortfall won’t get sustained attention from either the Biden administration or Congress despite the need to take action before 2034.

The Trustees aren’t too happy about that.

Their report says: “The Trustees recommend that lawmakers address the projected trust fund shortfalls in a timely way in order to phase in necessary changes gradually and give workers and beneficiaries time to adjust to them. Implementing changes sooner rather than later would allow more generations to share in the needed revenue increases or reductions in scheduled benefits… With informed discussion, creative thinking, and timely legislative action, Social Security can continue to protect future generations.”

The Political Outlook for Social Security Reforms

But the Biden administration and its Congressional allies are instead focused on threading the political needle for an ambitious $3.5 trillion infrastructure spending package, while also dealing with the fallout from the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Leading Republican legislators have called for so-called entitlement reform (think Social Security benefit cuts), but that’s a tough sell in the current Democratically controlled Congress.

“Does the report mean the timetable argues for real concrete action on [addressing solvency issues of] Social Security? Probably not. Will it revive the rhetoric that the sky is falling? Sure,” says Robert Blancato, national coordinator of the Elder Justice Coalition advocacy group, president of Matz Blancato and Associates and a 2016 Next Avenue Influencer in Aging.

The issue over how best to restore financial solvency to Social Security isn’t going away. That’s because the program is fundamental to the economic security of retired Americans. Social Security currently pays benefits to 49 million retired workers and dependents of retired workers (as well as survivor benefits to six million younger people and 10 million disabled people).

However, the tenor of the longer-term solvency discussion has significantly changed in recent years.

To be sure, a number of leading Republicans still want to cut Social Security retirement benefits to reduce the impending shortfall. Their latest maneuver is what’s known as The TRUST Act, sponsored by Utah Sen. Mitt Romney.

It calls for closed-door meetings of congressionally appointed bipartisan committees to come up with legislation to restore solvency by June 1 of the following year. The TRUST act would also limit Congress to voting yes or no on the proposals. No amendments allowed.

What’s Different About Future Social Security Changes

AARP, responding to the Trustees report news, came out vehemently against The TRUST Act’s closed-door reform plan. “All members of Congress should be held accountable for any action on Social Security and Medicare,” AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins said.

“The concern seems to be they would look to cuts first, versus a more comprehensive approach,” says Blancato. A more comprehensive approach could include tax increases for the wealthy and technical changes to the Social Security system.

Something else that’s different is that liberals are no longer trying to simply stave off benefit cuts and preserve the program exactly as it is — the main tactic since Republican Newt Gingrich was House Majority Leader in the mid-1990s. That have bigger and bolder ideas.

Most Democratic members of Congress have co-sponsored legislation to expand Social Security or voted in support of incremental increases in benefits, such as providing more for the oldest old and a new minimum Social Security benefit equal to at least 125% of the poverty level (that translates to $16,100 for a household of one).

Addressing Social Security’s shortfall and paying for the new benefits, with the Democrats’ plans, would come from tax hikes, ranging from gradually raising the 6.2% payroll tax rate to hiking or eliminating the $142,800 limit on annual earnings subject to Social Security taxes to some combination of these.

But Social Security benefit cuts are off the negotiating table for the Democrats.

“Biden has made a commitment not to cut and to make modest improvements in benefits,” says Kingson. “He won’t back off that.”

The President has pushed for raising the Social Security payroll tax cap so people earning incomes over $400,000 would owe taxes on that money, too. He has also backed raising the minimum Social Security benefit to 125% of the poverty level.

The Good News for Social Security Beneficiaries

One more piece of Social Security news to keep in mind: Social Security recipients are likely to get a sizable cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to their benefits in 2022. The exact amount will be announced in October and estimates vary widely, from 3% to as high as 6%. A 6% increase would be the highest in 40 years.

But there’s a catch: Medicare Part B premiums for physician and outpatient services — a significant portion of Medicare’s funding —will also go up due to inflation. And those premium payments usually come right out of monthly Social Security checks.

The Trustees report says the estimated standard monthly Medicare Part B premium in 2022 will be $158.50, up about 7% from $148.50 in 2021 and a 9.6% total increase since 2020. (Monthly premiums are based on income, though, and can exceed $500 for high earners.)

The Trustees report says Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund (HITF) has enough funds to pay scheduled benefits until 2026, unchanged from last year. Medicare’s finances stayed stable during the pandemic, with people over 65 largely avoiding elective care. The pandemic “is not expected to have a large effect on the financial status of the [Medicare] trust funds after 2024,” the Trustees report noted.

Like Social Security, the trust fund behind Medicare Part A (which pays for hospitals, nursing facilities, home health and hospice care) is primarily funded by payroll taxes. There will be enough tax income coming in to cover an estimated 91% of total scheduled benefits once the trust fund is insolvent.

Medicare Part D, which covers prescription drugs, is mostly funded by federal income taxes, premiums and state payments.

But the political story about Medicare is less about its projected 2026 shortfall and more about momentum toward expanding the program. The Biden administration has proposed adding hearing, visual and dental care to Medicare benefits, something also being pushed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) At this time, it’s unclear how those new benefits would be paid for, though they wouldn’t affect the trust fund.

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Next Avenue is public media’s first and only national journalism service for America’s booming older population. Our daily content delivers vital ideas, context and perspectives on issues that matter most as we age.

Source: What The New Outlook For Social Security Means For You

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Request a Replacement Social Security Number (SSN) Card Online

Payments Resulting from Disability Insurance Actions Processed Via Manual Adjustment

Analysis of the Social Security System: Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Ways and Means, House of Representatives

Supplemental Appropriation Bill for 1962: Hearings, Committee on Appropriations

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Social Security: Who Is Covered Under the Program

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Social Protection & Labor Program

 

 

How To Experience The Taj Mahal With No Tourists: A VIP Guide To Agra, India – Jim Dobson

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The cows blocking the winding dirt road ahead would have been a sure sign to turn back for the average visitor, but in India, locals are more resilient than that and they simply find a way around the crowded situation. We were in a private luxury car arranged by the amazing Micato Safaris taking us from Delhi to Agra on a four-hour drive. Our guide, the sophisticated, charming and well known Hem Singh was confident that the approaching wide open and empty toll freeway would make the drive a breeze. Before we knew it we had arrived in the humid, sweaty, dusty and overcrowded city of Agra……..

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jimdobson/2018/10/28/how-to-experience-the-taj-mahal-with-no-tourists-a-vip-guide-to-agra-india/#49e7b4466649

 

 

 

 

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Uber To Give Drivers & Couriers Sickness & Maternity Cover

Image result for uber

Uber is to provide additional protection for its drivers and couriers across Europe, including 70,000 in the UK, with limited insurance against sickness and injury as well as small maternity and paternity payments.The ride-hailing service said a new insurance policy, to be provided free to its drivers, would give them “peace of mind while preserving the flexibility they value”.

The cover starts in June for drivers who have completed 150 trips in the past two months, or Uber Eats couriers who have completed at least 30 deliveries. Payouts for a baby are £1,000; sick pay for injured drivers after a week is capped at £1,125.

But James Farrar, the chair of the united private hire drivers branch of the gig economy union IWGB, said the deal was just “tinkering around the edges” instead of guaranteeing drivers’ employment rights.“It’s good to see Uber is reacting to the pressure piled on by the IWGB’s campaigns and legal action,” he said.

“Sadly, this is once again a case of tinkering around the edges for a quick PR win, rather than dealing with the issue at hand. If Uber really cares about the workers on which the business relies, it should stop fighting us in court and give the drivers the rights they are entitled to under the law.” The GMB union said Uber was starting to listen to its members’ complaints about employment rights.

Mick Rix, the national officer, said: “This is a major step in the right direction, but our successful court victories, winning workers’ rights for Uber drivers, could have all been avoided if they had sat down and talked with GMB from the start.Uber has fought claims from drivers who argue that the technology firm is their employer and should provide benefits such as paid time off, and is continuing its legal appeal after British tribunals ruled against them.

While Uber insists that most drivers prefer to be self-employed, the latest move is another step in its efforts to show itself as a “better partner”, after a string of controversies and the decision by local authorities in London and other UK cities to refuse its application for a renewed licence.Announcing the move in Paris at President Emmanuel Macron’s Tech for Good summit, Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, said drivers were “at the heart of the Uber experience”.

He said: “We’re committed to being better a partner, and that starts by being a better listener. That’s why I’m thrilled to provide this groundbreaking protection alongside a trusted insurer like AXA, giving our drivers and couriers the peace of mind they tell us they want while preserving the flexibility they value.”In a blogpost confirming the details, Uber said: “We called drivers ‘partners’ but didn’t always act like it.”

The insurance will give some protection against major costs or lost income resulting from accidents or injuries while working, as well as an element of sick or parental leave through one-off payments.A similar scheme was announced this month by Deliveroo, who gave its riders accident insurance towards medical expenses and loss of earnings.

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4 Strategies to Get Your Content Seen and Drive Engagement

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Every effective website starts with a strong design and quality content. However, if you really want to maximize the effectiveness of your site, you’ll want to use social media to drive engagement. If you’re only providing opportunities for passive consumption, you aren’t tapping into your visitors’ desire to participate in your content.

The good news is that you can use social media to drive engagement. After all, that’s what social networks are for – enabling people to interact with content and spread it to their friends and contacts. By leveraging these existing tools, you can create more participation on your website and see better results from your marketing.

In this article, we’ll explain the importance of engagement, and discuss why social media is such a crucial tool on your website. Then we’ll show you four ways to get the ball rolling. Let’s begin!

Why social media engagement is so crucial

When you first create your website, you’ll likely put a lot of effort into its design and functionality. This is an important step, and will start you off on the right foot. However, your work is far from over, even when your site is looking great and running perfectly. If you see your site as a passive marketing tool, you won’t get the best results from it.

After all, your audience will largely be made up of internet-savvy visitors who expect more than just quality content from you – they’re looking to be engaged. In fact, 80% of marketers consider engagement to be the most vital metric for evaluating marketing success online, rating it as more influential than audience size or website traffic. Treating your audience as passive consumers means you’re missing out on opportunities to see how they’re connecting to your brand, and to foster stronger relationships.

Just what is engagement in this context? In a nutshell, it’s anything your audience does actively to communicate with or respond to you. This can be leaving comments on your blog posts, sharing your content, participating in surveys and giveaways, asking questions, and so on. While some of this can occur through your website or other channels, the most effective method is to use social media to drive engagement.

About 30% of both millennials and Generation Xers engage with a brand on social media at least once a month – yet 89% of social media messages to brands go unanswered. Audiences are clearly interested in engaging with you through these platforms, but not all companies answer back. If you not only respond, but encourage that engagement and foster real conversations, you have a chance to stand above the crowd.

64% of marketers have reported that increasing their audience engagement through social media played a vital role in the success of their marketing strategy. If you want to do the same thing, you’ll need to find ways to use social media to drive engagement.

How to use social media to drive engagement on your website

You can view your website and social media accounts as separate channels – or you can integrate them for a stronger effect. This way, you’ll be able to funnel audience members back and forth between your company’s site and profiles, increasing the amount of content they view.

Plus, adding social elements to your website makes it easier to use social media to drive engagement. Let’s talk about four ways you can get started with this approach.

1. Add social sharing buttons to your content

Use Social Media to Drive Engagement - Share Buttons CodeinWP

The first method we’ll introduce is the simplest – adding social media sharing buttons to your website. This provides visitors with an effortless way to spread your branding and content to their own networks. It’s a method of offering engagement opportunities without getting in your audience’s face about it, which many will appreciate. After all, too much aggressive promotion is the biggest reason people stop following brands on social media.

Social sharing buttons can drive quite a bit of traffic to your social media accounts from your website. In one analysis, it was found that up to 20% of tweets to large media companies such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal came from their Twitter share buttons. These buttons tend to perform best when placed on individual content people might want to share, rather than on general website pages. So they’re most effective when used in combination with a company blog, updates, or news articles.

Fortunately, there are plenty of easy ways to add this feature to your website. If you’re using WordPress, many plugins will get the job done (and some themes include this option as standard). We’d recommend giving Social Share Buttons a try, since it’s free and quite customizable. Just remember to look out for users who are sharing your content, and respond to them when possible. This way, you can keep the conversation and engagement going.

2. Share your posts on social media sites

Use social media to drive engagement - A Twitter post from WordPress.

Along with enabling your audience to share your content, it’s a smart idea to distribute it to social media yourself, as the WordPress team does in the Twitter status shown above. That way, you can reach a far larger audience than simply those who come to your website. You also get extra mileage out of your content, leveraging the same pieces to use social media to drive engagement across multiple platforms.

Finally, sharing your content on social media is a smart way to encourage participation and conversations. 71% of those who have had a positive experience with a brand via social media will likely recommend it to their friends and contacts. The more content you put out, the greater number of opportunities you’ll have for these kinds of connections.

Frankly, if you aren’t sharing your blog posts and other content on social media, you’re missing a valuable opportunity.

The way you go about sharing your content may vary, but in general you’ll start by choosing a few key platforms to focus on, then setting up a schedule for posting. There are lots of tools that can help, and you can even automate the process to save time. For more information, you can check out our previous guide on the subject.

3. Create more ‘shareable’ content

Use social media to drive engagement - Kissmetrics video

Once you’ve enabled your visitors to share your website’s content themselves, and have set up a schedule for posting it to social media, it’s time to think about creating pieces specifically for social platforms, like the video shown above. After all, long blog posts are not always the most effective type of content to share. If you have any experience with social media, you know that most lend themselves to much shorter fare.

Some of the best types of ‘shareable’ content include (but are not restricted to):

No matter what types of content you choose to focus on, remember that the key to a smart social media marketing strategy is variety. Try to create and share a number of different content types, to attract different types of audience members and play to the strengths of specific platforms.

Pro Tip: You can combine strategies two and three by adapting blog posts into new social media content.

4. Curate useful content

Use social media to drive engagement - An example of content curation.

Our last suggestion is to try creating curated content on your website, and sharing it via social media, as shown in the above snapshot of the Slashdot home page. A curated post gathers content from various other people on the internet, bringing it together in one convenient place to share with your audience. You could collect images, blog posts, quotes, news stories, statistics, or anything else that strikes your fancy.

If you’ve never created this type of content before, now is the time to get on board. 76% of marketers already use this strategy, sharing curated posts on social media where it is most effective. In fact, you can use social sites both to gather and share the content you curate. The marketers who have found curation successful have also reported a number of benefits. These include increased perceived authority and visibility, and more engagement.

Curated content will look different depending on who is creating it and what their goals are. However, there are a few key things to remember. First, you should always attribute each piece of content to its original creator, providing a link if possible. Second, remember that the curated content should be interesting and informative to your audience. For more help getting started with this strategy, you can find plenty of useful guides online.

Final advice

Social media is an invaluable tool when it comes to marketing your business. When you use social media to drive engagement in tandem with your website, it can enable visitors to connect to your content more fully. As a result, you’ll start seeing improved results and a more invested audience.

To recap, here are four ways you can use social media to drive engagement on your website:

  1. Add social sharing buttons to your content.
  2. Share your posts on social media sites.
  3. Create more ‘shareable’ content.
  4. Curate useful content.

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