2003 OASDI Trustees Report 

II. OVERVIEW
ShortRange Actuarial Estimates
For the short range (20032012), the Trustees measure trust fund adequacy by comparing assets at the beginning of each year to projected expenditures for that year under the intermediate set of assumptions. Having a trust fund ratio of 100 percent or morethat is, assets at the beginning of each year at least equal to projected outgo during the yearis considered a good indication of a trust fund's ability to cover most shortterm contingencies. Both the OASI and the DI trust fund ratios under the intermediate assumptions exceed 100 percent throughout the shortrange period and therefore satisfy the Trustees' shortterm test for financial adequacy. Figure II.D1 below shows the trust fund ratios for the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds for the next 10 years.
LongRange Actuarial Estimates
The financial status of the trust funds over the next 75 years is measured in terms of costs and income as a percentage of taxable payroll, trust fund ratios, the actuarial balance (also as a percentage of taxable payroll), and the open group unfunded obligation (expressed in presentvalue dollars). Considering Social Security's cost as a percentage of the total U.S. economy (gross domestic product or GDP) provides an additional perspective.
The yearbyyear relationship of the income and cost rates shown in figure II.D2 illustrates the expected pattern of cash flow for the OASDI program over the full 75year period. Under the intermediate assumptions, the OASDI cost rate is projected to decline slightly and then remain flat for the next several years. It then begins to increase rapidly and first exceeds the income rate in 2018, producing cashflow deficits thereafter. Despite these cashflow deficits, trust fund interest earnings and assets will allow continuation of full benefit payments until 2042, when the trust funds will be exhausted. Pressures on the Federal Budget will thus emerge well before 2042. Even if a trust fund's assets are exhausted, however, tax income will continue to flow into the fund. Present tax rates would be sufficient to pay 73 percent of scheduled benefits after trust fund exhaustion in 2042 and 65 percent of scheduled benefits in 2077.
Social Security's cost rate generally will continue rising through about 2030 as the babyboom generation reaches retirement age. Thereafter, the cost rate is estimated to rise at a slower rate for about 15 years as the baby boom ages and begins to decrease in size. Continued reductions in death rates and relatively low birth rates will cause a significant upward shift in the average age of the population and will push the cost rate to nearly 20 percent of taxable payroll by 2077 under the intermediate assumptions. In a payasyougo system such as OASDI, this 20percent cost rate means the combination of the payroll tax (now totaling 12.4 percent) and proceeds from income taxes on benefits (expected to be 1.0 percent of taxable payroll in 2077) would have to equal 20 percent to pay all currently scheduled benefits. Although the annual projections do not extend beyond 2077, the upward shift in the average age of the population is likely to continue and to increase the gap between OASDI costs and income.
The primary reason that the OASDI cost rate will increase rapidly between 2010 and 2030 is that, as the large babyboom generation born in the years 1946 through 1964 retires, the number of beneficiaries will increase much more rapidly than the number of workers. The estimated number of workers per beneficiary is shown in figure II.D3. In 2002, there were about 3.3 workers for every OASDI beneficiary. The babyboom generation will have largely retired by 2030, and the projected ratio of workers to beneficiaries will be only 2.2 at that time. Thereafter, the number of workers per beneficiary will slowly decline, and the OASDI cost rate will continue to increase.
The maximum projected trust fund ratios for the OASI, DI, and combined funds appear in table II.D1. The year in which the maximum projected trust fund ratio is attained and the year in which the assets are projected to be exhausted are shown as well.
The actuarial balance is a measure of the program's financial status for the 75year valuation period as a whole. It is essentially the difference between income and cost of the program expressed as a percentage of taxable payroll over the valuation period. This single number summarizes the adequacy of program financing for the period. When the actuarial balance is negative, the actuarial deficit can be interpreted as the percentage that would have to be added to the current law income rate in each of the next 75 years, or subtracted from the cost rate in each year, to bring the funds into actuarial balance. In this report, the actuarial balance under the intermediate assumptions is a deficit of 1.92 percent of taxable payroll for the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds. The actuarial deficit was1.87 percent in the 2002 report and has been in the range of 1.46 percent to 2.23 percent for the last ten reports.
Another way to illustrate the financial shortfall of the OASDI system is to examine the cumulative value of taxes less costs, in present value. Figure II.D4 shows the present value of cumulative OASDI taxes less costs over the next 75 years. The balance of the combined trust funds peaks at $2.3 trillion in 2017 (in present value) and then turns downward. Through the end of 2077, the combined funds have a presentvalue unfunded obligation of $3.5 trillion.
Still another important way to look at Social Security's future is to view its cost as a share of the U.S. economy. Figure II.D5 shows that Social Security's cost as a percentage of GDP will grow 1.6 times from 4.4 percent in 2002 to 7.0 percent in 2077. Over the same period, the cost of Social Security expressed as a percentage of taxable payroll will grow from 10.95 percent to 19.92 percent.
Even a 75year period is not long enough to provide a complete picture of Social Security's financial condition. Figures II.D6 and II.D7 show that the program's financial condition continues to worsen at the end of the period. Some experts have noted that overemphasis on summary measures for a 75year period can lead to incorrect perceptions and to policy prescriptions that do not move towards a sustainable system. In order to provide a more complete description of Social Security's very longrun financial condition this year the Trustees present actuarial estimates over a time period that extends to the infinite horizon. These calculations show that extending the horizon indeed increases the unfunded obligation, indicating that much larger changes would be required to achieve solvency over the infinite future as compared to changes needed according to 75year period measures.
Changes From Last Year's Report
This year's projections are little changed from those in last year's report, as shown in figure II.D6. The longrange actuarial deficit has increased from 1.87 percent to 1.92 percent of taxable payrollprimarily because the valuation period now extends through 2077. On balance, changes in assumptions, methods, and data have slightly lessened the negative impact of changing the valuation period (see table II.D2). The open group unfunded obligation over the 75year projection period has increased from $3.3 trillion to $3.5 trillion.
Item

OASI

DI

Combined



Shown in last year's report:



Income rate

11.79

1.92

13.72



Cost rate

13.33

2.26

15.59



Actuarial balance

1.54

.34

1.87


Changes in actuarial balance due to changes in:




Legislation / Regulation

.00

.00

.00



Valuation period 1

.06

.01

.07



Demographic data and assumptions

.03

.01

.04



Economic data and assumptions

+.01

.01

.00



Disability data and assumptions

.00

.00

.00



Projection methods and data

+.05

+.01

+.06


Total change in actuarial balance

.03

.02

.04


Shown in this report:



Actuarial balance

1.56

.35

1.92



Income rate

11.85

1.93

13.78



Cost rate

13.41

2.29

15.70

1In changing from the valuation period of last year's report, which was 200276, to the valuation period of this report, 200377, the relatively large negative annual balance for 2077 is included. This results in a larger longrange actuarial deficit. The fund balance at the end of 2002, i.e., at the beginning of the projection period, is included in the 75year actuarial balance. 
Note: Totals do not necessarily equal the sums of rounded components.
A higher assumed rate of immigration improves the projected financial situation of the trust funds in the early years, however, and delays the start of cashflow deficits from 2017 to 2018. The year in which the combined trust funds will be exhausted also slips one yearfrom 2041 to 2042.
Uncertainty of the Projections
Significant uncertainty surrounds the intermediate assumptions. The Trustees have traditionally used low cost (alternative I) and high cost (alternative III) assumptions to indicate this uncertainty. Figure II.D7 shows the projected trust fund ratios for the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds under the intermediate, low cost, and high cost assumptions. The low cost alternative is characterized by assumptions that improve the financial condition of the trust funds, including a higher fertility rate, slower improvement in mortality, a higher realwage differential, and lower unemployment. The high cost alternative, in contrast, features a lower fertility rate, more rapid declines in mortality, a lower realwage differential, and higher unemployment.
These three alternatives have traditionally been constructed to provide a reasonable range of possible future experience. However, these alternatives do not address the probability that actual experience will be within or outside the range. As an additional way of illustrating uncertainty, this Trustees Report for the first time uses a model of the trust funds that provides an explicit probability distribution of possible future outcomes (see appendix E). The results of this model suggest that outcomes better than the traditional low cost alternative and outcomes worse than the high cost alternative have very low probabilities of occurring.
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