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Volume 11 Issue 3 - September 2010

2010 RRC Conference: Retirement, Planning, and Social Security in Interesting Times

The 12th annual Retirement Research Consortium (RRC) conference, Retirement, Planning, and Social Security in Interesting Times, was held on August 5-6, 2010, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Twenty-one scholarly papers addressed topics such as the financial crisis; Social Security and labor supply; Social Security Disability Insurance; private financial planning for retirement; the role of health, demography, and tastes in the life-cycle economic model; and behavioral findings.

David Rust, Deputy Commissioner of Retirement and Disability Policy of the Social Security Administration (SSA), noted that August 14, 2010, marked the 75th anniversary of the enactment of the Social Security program. He invited attendees to visit a website recently unveiled by SSA "where the public can share and read personal stories and reflections about the importance of Social Security in their lives." Touching on the contributions of RRC research to the Social Security program, he said, "the RRC has generated numerous research findings that have influenced Social Security policy, pension policy, SSA’s special initiative to encourage saving and now the Financial Literacy Research Consortium, and our overall understanding of how the Social Security programs affect the lives of retirees, workers, individuals with disabilities, and children. Other more basic research has been important to the development of our microsimulation models, which we use to inform our understanding of how changes to the Social Security programs might affect the well-being of current and future beneficiaries."

Thursday’s lunch speaker was Donald Marron, Director of the Tax Policy Center at the Urban Institute, who noted that in today’s economy we face great challenges and a high degree of uncertainty. He said that the goals of the RRC and his organization are similar in that they try to help policymakers see through the uncertainty.

A special session focused on Social Security Administration data that is available on the website data.gov. Alan Lane, Associate Chief Information Officer for Open Government, explained that the 2009 federal initiative on transparency and openness in government charged SSA with making more information about the data it collects available to taxpayers. He encouraged attendees to contact him with "ideas on high-value data and how it can be used to improve accountability." He also invited suggestions as to other data sets that would be useful to researchers or the public.
Recognizing of the 75th anniversary of the founding of Social Security by his grandfather, James Roosevelt Jr., President and CEO of Tufts Health Plan, gave the Friday lunch talk titled The Mythology of Fear. He noted that Franklin D. Roosevelt launched the Social Security program with the familiar words, ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’ He spoke about the fundamental belief shared by both his grandparents that "all people should be free from fear of want and destitution." He lauded the legacy of the program that has survived three-quarters of a century without deficit financing.