MarketWatch: What do you see happening to Social Security in 10 years as the trust funds supporting it hit insolvency?
Ghilarducci: Social Security is purely a political problem. The country could afford to put more money into the system. We could have a 3-percentage-point increase in payroll tax. It wouldn’t mean job displacement or funding taken away from other groups. It’s not an economic problem. It’s a political problem that will be solved at the last minute, which will make it even more expensive. Any cuts to Social Security will mean more poor older adults. The last time there was a crisis, in 1983, we went to the brink. This time, I think politically there is the will to get something done because no one wants to see benefits cut.
MarketWatch: Will you ever retire? And what will that look like?
Ghilarducci: I have one of the strangest jobs in the U.S. I’m like a medieval priest or something. I have an endowed chair and I’m tenured. I have no supervisor. I have a really rare job. I’ll only retire when my body or my mind gives out. I’m not typical. And those of us with atypical jobs — and policy makers are not typical — we need to be more humble and realize we are not representative of most people.