Opinion

Why I’m giving my Social Security checks away — and why you should too

Photo of Mark Skousen
Mark Skousen
Producer, FreedomFest
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      Mark Skousen

      Mark Skousen, Ph. D., is editor of Forecasts & Strategies, an award-winning financial newsletter, author of 25 books, and producer of FreedomFest, the world’s largest gathering of free minds (FreedomFest is an open forum--to speak, exhibit, or attend, go to www.freedomfest.com). His personal website is www.mskousen.com. Email address: editor@markskousen.com.

Today I turn 65 years old — the age when most Americans start thinking about retirement and signing up for Social Security and Medicare.

In the early 1980s, I burned my Social Security card at the New Orleans Investment Conference (see photo) in protest of the state pension system. Social Security is a lousy retirement program that forces the working poor to pay high payroll taxes, prevents them from saving, and has left the nation with over $8 trillion in unfunded liabilities that (along with Medicare) could bankrupt us in the next 20 years.

I have always tried to live up to the words of Benjamin Franklin, who taught us the virtues of industry, thrift, and prudence in his booklet “The Way to Wealth.” By following Franklin’s trinity of virtues, I’ve been able to build up a sizable net worth and multiple sources of retirement income (company pension plan, IRAs), so that I don’t really need Social Security to live off of.

And even though I’ve reached retirement age, I still plan to work — writing my investment newsletter, speaking at conferences, publishing books, and producing conferences like FreedomFest.

So, over the past year I’ve pondered two questions:

1. Should I sign up for Social Security?

2. What should I do with my monthly Social Security check?

I’ve asked several friends for advice, and about what they do with their Social Security checks. Many need them for daily living expenses, but a surprising number told me they don’t know what to do with their monthly checks. They’re deposited automatically into their bank accounts and either sit there or go into savings accounts that earn very little interest.

It got me thinking: Can Social Security payments be used for a good cause?

I thought back to something my wise old uncle Cleon told me when he turned 65 in 1978. He said he could use the extra monthly income of $650. After all, he had earned it during his working years. It had been deducted from his paycheck and set aside for him (theoretically at least) in the Social Security trust fund. It was his. So he went down to the Social Security office in Salt Lake City and signed up.

But instead of spending the money on daily living expenses, he signed over the monthly check to his favorite cause, The National Center for Constitutional Studies. He loved teaching Americans about the Constitution and how to preserve it. Through NCCS, he traveled the country giving constitutional seminars to patriotic Americans, and used the Social Security checks to pay for some of his expenses.

Following in my uncle’s footsteps, I’ve decided to sign up for Social Security. Since I don’t need the money to live on, I’ve decided to invest my monthly government check in a variety of good causes. Based on my past earnings, I should receive a check of around $1,800 a month, automatically transferred into my bank account. From there, I’ve instructed the bank to send a check or wire every month to my various causes. It’s that simple.