CRFB's The Reformer is an interactive tool designed to help users understand the choices and trade-offs in designing a package to make Social Security financially solvent. The options available in the tool represent versions of many of the most frequently discussed options, but are by no means exhaustive. A more comprehensive, but still far from complete, set of options are available from the Social Security Chief Actuary at http://www.ssa.gov/oact/solvency/provisions/index.html.
The Reformer aims to show annual revenue and spending levels associated with the Social Security system under user-selected scenarios. It also shows the annual size of the trust fund and calculates a number of key metrics such as the percent of the 75-year shortfall closed, the year of insolvency, and the percent across-the-board cut which would occur upon insolvency.
All outputs of the model should be considered rough estimates and not formal scores. In most cases, the baseline metrics and the effects of policy choices are estimated based on the 2018 Social Security Trustees Report.
Annual effects of policy choices are estimated by CRFB staff. In most cases, those estimates are based on figures from the Social Security Chief Actuary (http://www.ssa.gov/oact/solvency/provisions/index.html) with minor adjustments to account for timing changes or other issues.
In general, the model does not account for various interactions between policies, though certain options with very large interactive effects – namely, investing a portion of the trust funds in equities and bringing all new state and local workers into the program – are adjusted under the assumption they would be part of a larger plan to achieve solvency.
Start dates and phase-ins vary from policy to policy within the model. Modifying these parameters could have substantial effects on the ultimate costs or savings of a reform plan.
Importantly, outputs from this tool should be taken as rough estimates to highlight orders of magnitude of many reform options.