- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Workers would receive a higher rate of return under President Bush’s plan for personal retirement accounts than they would under the existing Social Security system, according to calculations by the Heritage Foundation.

The rate comparisons will be available on an Internet calculator that will go online today at the conservative think tank’s Web site (www.heritage.org).

Younger workers in their 20s and 30s would do best under Mr. Bush’s voluntary investment plan, because they have more time to contribute a 4 percent share of their payroll taxes into their PRA accounts, the calculator shows.

A worker in his early 20s, for example, would be able to build an account worth more than $315,000 at retirement, yielding $1,000 per month more retirement income than today’s Social Security program offers.

Using the features in Mr. Bush’s proposal, the online calculator allows workers to enter their age, sex, marital status and salary into a computer program that then provides a breakdown of what they can expect to receive in monthly retirement benefits from Social Security, compared with a PRA mutual fund that invests half of its money in U.S. Treasury bonds and half in corporate stocks. The PRA rate of return is figured based on a historical, average annual yield of 4.9 percent.

“This is the first meaningful effort to show Americans how they would fare under the president’s plan. It takes the debate out of the realm of conjecture and theory, and shows how it would affect real people,” said William Beach, director of Heritage’s Center for Data Analysis.

There are several online calculators that purport to show how workers would do under various Social Security investment plans, compared with the current Social Security system. But Heritage officials said their program comes closest to Mr. Bush’s plan, though some assumptions had to be made in various areas dealing with future financing, benefit indexing, salary-level growth and retirement eligibility that will rise to age 67 by 2027.

“Overall, this is probably the most accurate representation of the Bush plan,” said Rea Hederman, Jr., a Heritage data analyst.

The foundation provided The Washington Times yesterday with an advance sampling of its benefit comparisons:

• A married male worker, age 20 to 24, earning between $20,000 to $24,999, with his spouse earning up to $10,000, can expect to have a PRA investment account valued at $315,413. A maximum annuity option in the Bush plan would yield a combined PRA and Social Security monthly benefit of $4,300, compared with $3,237 per month under Social Security alone.

• Unmarried males, age 40-44, earning between $40,000 to $44,999, would have a PRA worth $50,734, yielding $1,704 a month, compared with $1,346 per month under Social Security.

• Unmarried women, age 30 to 34 and earning between $25,000 and $29,999, would have a PRA account of $83,050 at retirement, which would give them $1,592 per month in benefits, compared with $1,139 under Social Security.

“The president’s plan helps make Social Security a better deal for younger people. People under 30 especially come out ahead because they have more time to put money into the system and benefit more from the power of compound interest,” Mr. Hederman said.

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