Research & Analysis by Lawrence E. Hart

SSA's Estimates of Administrative Costs Under a Centralized Program of Individual Accounts
(released January 2001)
by Lawrence E. Hart, Mark Kearney, Carol Musil, and Kelly A. Olsen

Over the past several years, a number of policymakers have proposed creating national individual accounts (IAs) for retirement whose assets would be individually owned and directed among investment options. Some proposals would create an IA program outside Social Security; others would integrate IAs into the Social Security program itself. All IA proposals, however, would entail administrative functions, costs, and considerations. Identifying and recognizing those administrative elements are important steps in assessing the desirability, feasibility, and optimal design of IAs.

This paper summarizes the administrative operation of Social Security today; provides SSA's estimated administrative costs for two hypothetical IA programs (that is, only the costs that SSA could experience, not those that employers, other agencies, and other parties could incur); and highlights major considerations raised by IA administrative costs and choices.