Everyone's a winner: funding Social Security with lottery
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The presidential candidates are lining up on the issues.

The topics of economic health, immigration and foreign policy are taking the forefront. But what about Social Security?

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Both leading candidates have weighed in that they do not want to change the benefits or claiming age. There are claims of fraud and mismanagement but no plans to address the situation.

That is all well and good but what about the fact that the money may not be there to pay the claims. No one is willing to put forth a plan to manage that inevitable situation. So, it is clear that someone needs to think outside the box.

Let’s create a national lottery to save Social Security benefits for all generations. It is not as crazy an idea as it may first seem.

Remember that huge Powerball lottery payout of over $1.5 billion back in January. . Ticket sales for that week were over $600 million. That doesn’t count all of the other weeks that rolled over to that prize. This is a very lucrative system that raises all of its money through voluntary contributions. Everyone has the same opportunity to participate as long as they are of legal age.

What about the expenses, you might ask?

In Arizona, the lottery gave back $175 million in fiscal 2014. $84.5 million went to education, $65.5 to health and human services, $10.5 million went to the environment and $14.5 million was used for economic and business development.

California has made over $29 trillion since 1985. Their lotteryrecently contributed $348 million in one quarter to California educational expenses.

Look at the New Hampshire lottery webpage. They publish that they pay out on average 62 percent in prizes, 9 percent in cost of sales and 3 percent for operating expenses. That leaves 26 percent for the state’s schools. Not a bad profit margin. Other states fund education and programs that help the poor and elderly.

But won’t a national lottery harm the state’s ability to run their own games?

Studies need to be done to determine if another lottery can be supported. I would bet (no pun intended) that we can support a national lottery. One way is to dismantle the existing lottery system and create one that works for the states and pays into Social Security.

Maybe this new system pays out $1 million per week but only rolls up $10 million for the maximum prize. Everyone of majority age would be able to buy a ticket and have a chance to win.  

Social Security needs a win.

There could be a lot of money going to fund Social Security and if a national lottery becomes a great win maybe some of the money can go to reduce the national debt.

Everyone loves to play a game they have a chance to win. Let’s give Social Security a chance to win for all of us. Social Security accounts for 60 percent on average of retirement income for our population.

We can’t afford to lose this time. There is too much at stake.

With an aging population we no longer have as many people contributing to Social Security per retiree. The money needs to be managed in a fiscally responsible way to make it last as our retirees are also living much longer.

Many lottery tickets are purchased by the poorest of us. Are we encouraging them to participate in a lottery that will never benefit them?

By purchasing a ticket that will help fund Social Security and Medicare they are also contributing to their health insurance as well. Some of this money will trickle down to help those who have no ability to pay for their medical services and medical insurance. State Medicaid programs may even receive an increase of Federal funds. It is all up to the design of this new program.

The lottery idea isn’t exactly new. It was proposed over 30 years ago by U.S. Rep. Cardiss Collins of Illinois. The bill never gained any traction and died in Congress.

So here we are 30 years later and oh so much closer to running out of money. How close to the brink do we need to be before our politicians do something to help?

The sooner we fix this problem the more chance we have of creating a winning economy for all.

Pam Hopman holds the designation of Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor from the College For Financial Planning. Her practice is in Tucson, Arizona. She is also a Tucson Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project.