Widespread concerns about the long-term fiscal gap in Social Security have prompted various proposals for structural reform, with individual accounts as the centerpiece. Carving out individual accounts from the existing system would shift significant risks and responsibilities to individual workers. A parallel development has already occurred in the area of private pensions. Experience with 401(k) plans indicates that many workers will have difficulty making prudent decisions concerning investment and withdrawal of funds. Moreover, in implementing any system of voluntary individual accounts, it will be important to design default settings that provide appropriate guidance for workers with heterogeneous levels of financial sophistication and risk tolerance. The central goal of Social Security reform should be to close the fiscal gap in a way that preserves rather than undermines the existing system of mandatory defined benefits for all workers.
Karen C. Burke & Grayson M.P. McCouch, Social Security Reform: Lessons from Private Pensions, 92 Cornell L. Rev. 297 (2007), available at http://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/facultypub/514