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Figure VI.E1 displays the probability distribution of the year-by-year
OASDI cost rates (that is, cost as a percentage of taxable payroll). The range
of the cost rates widens as the projections move further into the future, which
reflects increasing uncertainty. Because there is relatively little variation in
income rates across the 5,000 stochastic simulations, the figure includes the
income rate only under the intermediate assumptions to indicate the patterns
1 More detail on this model, and stochastic modeling in general, is available at
of cash flow for the OASDI program. The two extreme lines in this figure
illustrate the range within which future annual cost rates are projected to
occur 95 percent of the time (i.e., a 95-percent confidence interval). In other
words, the model indicates that there is a 2.5 percent probability that the cost
rate in a given year will exceed the upper bound and a 2.5 percent probability
that it will fall below the lower bound. Other lines in the figure delineate
additional confidence intervals (80-percent, 60-percent, 40-percent, and
20-percent) around future annual cost rates. The median cost rate for each
year is the rate that falls exactly in the middle of possible outcomes for that
year. These lines do not represent the results of individual stochastic simula-
tions. Instead, for each given year, they represent the percentile distribution
of cost rates based on all stochastic simulations for that year.
Figure VI.E2 presents the simulated probability distribution of the annual
trust fund ratios for the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds. The lines in this
figure display the median set (50th percentile) of estimated annual trust fund
ratios and delineate the 95-percent, 80-percent, 60-percent, 40-percent, and
20-percent confidence intervals expected for future annual trust fund ratios.
These lines are not the results of individual stochastic simulations. For each
Figure VI.E1.—Long-Range OASDI Cost Rates From Stochastic Modeling
given year, they represent the percentile distribution of trust fund ratios
based on all stochastic simulations for that year.
Figure VI.E2 shows that the 95-percent confidence interval for the trust fund
depletion year ranges from 2028 to 2044, and there is a 50-percent probabil-
ity of trust fund depletion by the end of 2033 (the median depletion year).
The median depletion year is the same as the Trustees project under the inter-
mediate assumptions. The figure also shows confidence intervals for the trust
fund ratio in each year. For example, the 95-percent confidence interval for
the trust fund ratio in 2025 ranges from 255 to 78 percent of annual cost.
Some of the difference in the ranges of the projected trust fund ratios
between two of the methods for illustrating uncertainty (alternative scenarios
and stochastic simulations) is due to the different assignment of real interest
rates in these two methods. The next section includes an explanation of the
Figure VI.E2.—Long-Range OASDI Trust Fund Ratios From Stochastic Modeling
4.Comparison of Results: Stochastic to Low-Cost, Intermediate, and
This section compares results from two different approaches for determining
ranges of uncertainty for trust fund actuarial status. One approach uses
results from the low-cost, intermediate, and high-cost alternative scenarios.
The other approach uses stochastic distributions of results. Each of these
approaches provides insights into uncertainty. Comparison of the results
requires an understanding of the differences in the approaches. Two funda-
mental differences exist between the approach using alternative scenarios
and the stochastic approach.
The first fundamental difference relates to presentation of results. Figure
VI.E3 shows projected OASDI annual cost rates for the low-cost, intermedi-
ate, and high-cost alternatives along with the annual cost rates at the 97.5th
percentile, 50th percentile, and 2.5th percentile for the stochastic simula-
tions. While all values on each line for the alternatives are results from a sin-
gle specified scenario, the values on each stochastic line may be results from
different simulations for different years. The one stochastic simulation (from
the 5,000 simulations) that yields results closest to a particular percentile in
one year may yield results that are distant from that percentile in another
year. Thus, the stochastic presentation illustrates distributions of the range of
potential results one year at a time, with no direct relationship of the results
Even with this fundamental difference in the presentation of results, figure
VI.E3 shows similar results between the range of OASDI cost rates resulting
from the alternatives and from the 95-percent confidence interval of stochas-
tic results for years before 2045. After 2045, results for the alternatives show
a narrower range. The cost rates for the high-cost alternative are somewhat
lower than the stochastic year-by-year results at the 97.5th percentile. The
intermediate alternative results show somewhat higher cost rates than the
stochastic year-by-year results at the 50th percentile. By far, the largest dif-
ferences are between the low-cost alternative and the stochastic year-by-year
results at the 2.5th percentile. For this comparison, cost rates are substan-
tially higher for the low-cost alternative than for the stochastic year-by-year
results at the 2.5th percentile for years after 2045.
The second fundamental difference between the alternatives and the stochas-
tic simulations is the method of assigning values for assumptions in the sim-
ulations. For the alternatives, the Trustees assign specific values for key
demographic and economic variables. In comparison to the intermediate
alternative, almost every value assigned to the high-cost alternative tends to
raise estimated program cost and almost every value assigned to the low-cost
alternative tends to reduce it. In contrast, the stochastic method randomly
assigns values for the key demographic and economic variables in each of
the 5,000 independent stochastic simulations. For each of the stochastic sim-
ulations, randomly assigned values for the various assumptions may have
varying effects on projected cost, with some tending toward higher cost and
some tending toward lower cost.
Figure VI.E4 compares the ranges of trust fund (unfunded obligation) ratios
for the alternative scenarios and the 95-percent confidence interval of the
stochastic simulations. This figure extends figure VI.E2 to show unfunded
obligation ratios, expressed as negative values below the zero percent line.
Unfunded obligation ratios are the ratio of the unfunded obligation at the
beginning of the year to the present value of annual cost for that year. Figure
Figure VI.E3.—OASDI Cost Rates: Comparison of Stochastic to Low-Cost, Intermediate,
and High-Cost Alternatives
[as a percentage of taxable payroll]
VI.E4 presents a more complete picture of the difference between the results
from the three alternative scenarios and the stochastic simulations.
After 2045, both trust fund (unfunded obligation) ratios and cost rates are
less optimistic for the intermediate scenario than the medians from the sto-
chastic simulation. In addition, both the high-cost trust fund (unfunded obli-
gation) ratios and cost rates are more optimistic than the 2.5th-percentile
trust fund (unfunded obligation) ratios and the 97.5th-percentile cost rates,
respectively. In sharp contrast, however, the trust fund (unfunded obligation)
ratios for the low-cost scenario are more optimistic than the 97.5th-percentile
results of the stochastic simulation, even though the cost rates for the low-
cost alternative are substantially less optimistic than the 2.5th percentile
results of the stochastic simulation.
The treatment of real interest rates between the scenario and stochastic meth-
ods provides some insight into the sharp difference between the cost rates
and trust fund ratios for the low-cost alternative in relation to the correspond-
Figure VI.E4.—OASDI Trust Fund (Unfunded Obligation) Ratios: Comparison of
Stochastic to Low-Cost, Intermediate, and High-Cost Alternativesa
[Asset reserves (unfunded obligation) as a percentage of annual cost]
aAn unfunded obligation, shown as a negative value in this figure, is equivalent to the amount the trust
funds would need to have borrowed to date in order to pay all scheduled benefits (on a timely basis) after
trust fund asset reserves are depleted. Note that current law does not permit the trust funds to borrow.
Trust fundasset reserves (positive)
ing stochastic results. Projections of trust fund (unfunded obligation) ratios
shown in figure VI.E4 require an additional variable not reflected in the cost
rates shown in figure VI.E3. This additional variable is the real interest rate.
For the alternatives, the Trustees assign higher real interest rates for the low-
cost alternative and lower real interest rates for the high-cost alternative.
Under the limitations imposed by the law, where the trust funds cannot bor-
row, a lower real interest rate is relatively pessimistic and thus consistent
with the high-cost alternative. However, in order to show the size of the
cumulative shortfall of non-interest income relative to scheduled cost (that is,
the unfunded obligation) that would not be payable under current law, the
Trustees project the cost of scheduled benefits, even after the point at which
trust fund reserves become depleted.
In the case of the high-cost alternative, the relatively low assumed real inter-
est rates make trust fund reserves decline faster and deplete sooner and make
the unfunded obligation grow more slowly thereafter. For the low-cost alter-
native, the relatively high assumed real interest rates help maintain trust fund
reserves and allow the trust fund reserves to remain close to positive
throughout the 75-year projection period.
The stochastic model, however, assigns real interest rates randomly (essen-
tially independent of other variables), yielding rates with very little correla-
tion to the overall “optimism” or “pessimism” of the other variable
assignments. The tendency for elevated trust fund ratios for the low-cost
alternative resulting from the assignment of high real interest rates is not
present in the stochastic results for the corresponding 97.5th percentile, so
trust fund reserves decline faster and deplete sooner. This very different
assignment of interest rates between the scenario and stochastic methods
helps explain the apparent contradiction of having cost rates under the low-
cost scenario that are less optimistic, and trust fund ratios under the low-cost
scenario that are more optimistic, than the corresponding results of the sto-
chastic simulations. A similar contradiction is not apparent when comparing
the high-cost scenario to the corresponding results of the stochastic simula-
tions, because the low real interest rates assigned for the high-cost alternative
suppress projected reserves early and also suppress growth in unfunded obli-
gations later in the projection period. Therefore, there is relatively little net
effect on the level of unfunded obligations late in the period.
This contrast in results and methods does not mean that either approach to
illustrating ranges of uncertainty, alternative scenarios or stochastic simula-
tions, is superior to the other. The ranges are different and explainable.
Table VI.E1 displays long-range actuarial estimates for the combined
OASDI program using the two methods of illustrating uncertainty: (1) alter-
native scenarios and (2) stochastic simulations. The table shows stochastic
estimates for the median (50th percentile) and for the 95-percent and 80-per-
cent confidence intervals. For comparison, the table shows scenario-based
estimates for the intermediate, low-cost, and high-cost assumptions. Each
individual stochastic estimate in the table is the level at that percentile from
the distribution of the 5,000 simulations. For each given percentile, the val-
ues in the table for each long-range actuarial measure are generally from dif-
ferent stochastic simulations.
The median stochastic estimates displayed in table VI.E1 are, in general,
slightly more optimistic than the intermediate-alternative scenario-based
estimates. The median estimate of the long-range actuarial balance is -2.63
percent of taxable payroll, about 0.09 percentage point higher than projected
under the intermediate assumptions. The median projected year that cost first
exceeds non-interest income (as it did in 2010, 2011, and 2012), and remains
in excess of non-interest income throughout the remainder of the long-range
period, is 2013. This is the same year as projected under the intermediate
assumptions. The median year that asset reserves first become depleted is
2033, also the same as projected under the intermediate assumptions. The
median estimates of the annual cost rate for the 75th year of the projection
period are 17.54 percent of taxable payroll and 5.80 percent of gross domes-
tic product (GDP). The comparable estimates under the intermediate
assumptions are 18.01 percent of payroll and 6.20 percent of GDP.
A comparison of the 95-percent confidence interval to the range of variation
defined by the traditional low-cost and high-cost alternatives follows. For
three measures in table VI.E1 (the actuarial balance, the open group
unfunded obligation, and the first year asset reserves become depleted), the
95-percent stochastic confidence interval is narrower than the range defined
by the low-cost and high-cost alternatives. In other words, for these mea-
sures, the range defined by the low-cost and high-cost alternatives contains
the 95-percent confidence interval of the stochastic modeling projections.
For the remaining three measures (the first year cost exceeds non-interest
income and remains in excess through 2087, the annual cost in the 75th year
as a percent of taxable payroll, and the annual cost in the 75th year as a per-
cent of GDP), one or both of the bounds of the 95-percent stochastic confi-
dence interval fall outside the range defined by the low-cost and high-cost
Table VI.E1.—Long-Range Estimates Relating to the Actuarial Status of
the Combined OASDI Program
[Comparison of scenario-based and stochastic results]
Actuarial balance . . . . . .
Open group unfunded
obligation (in trillions)
First projected year cost
income and remains in
excess through 2087a .
aCost also exceeded non-interest income in 2010, 2011, and 2012.
bFor this percentile, cost does not exceed non-interest income in 2087.
First year asset reserves
become depletedc . . . .
cFor some stochastic simulations, the first year in which trust fund reserves become depleted does not indi-
cate a permanent depletion of reserves.
Annual cost in 75th year
(percent of taxable
payroll) . . . . . . . . . . . .
Annual cost in 75th year
(percent of GDP). . . . .
F. ESTIMATES FOR OASDI AND HI, SEPARATE AND COMBINED
In this appendix, the Trustees present long-range actuarial estimates for the
OASDI and Hospital Insurance (HI) programs both separately and on a com-
bined basis. These estimates facilitate analysis of the adequacy of the income
and asset reserves of these programs relative to their cost under current law.
This appendix does not include estimates for the Supplementary Medical
Insurance (SMI) program because adequate financing is guaranteed in the
law, and because the SMI program is not financed through a payroll tax. For
more information on Medicare estimates, please see the 2013 Medicare
The information in this appendix on combined operations, while significant,
should not obscure the analysis of the financial status of the individual trust
funds, which are legally separate and cannot be commingled. In addition, the
factors which determine the costs of the OASI, DI, and HI programs differ
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