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Why can't I divert what's taken out for social security and invest it in a 401k?

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because your participation in social security is mandatory, not optional




And, as you have to ask, you don't understand what the many differences are in any way - like to start that the SS you pay is used to provide the benefits for those collecting it now....and yours would come from those working when you aren't (Current payors support current recipients.... there isn't an SS savings account with your name on it...growing and dependent on the amount, and investment return on the amount you put in...as in a 401k). Simply, SS is a societial benefit, not YOUR personal one.

And you want to be trusted to understand basic financial systems, invest wisely, in your 401K...so you don't lose it and need support, of the type that SS would provide? Many people have lost their 401k...and having SS, well it doesn't stp you from having one. Have you maxed yours out yet?

OK...YOU wouldn't invest in say, Enron (or Delta, or United, or Magellan Mutual Fund, ...or...or...) - even though they had a great return for many years, (and if it was your employer, everything else you had was involved there too...and you might even think you understood everything from an insiders point of view)...Ooops..thousands did...no 100s of thousands...did just that...and lost almost everything.

How about any other stock, or bond, that could go down...(which they can, because you understand these things)....and you would never withdraw it for some other reason...or get swindled out of it?....I mean, your just the best of money managers...and you'll certainly do it, all the time, every year. Because you'll need it all the time, every day of every year, when you don't work. And you'll do it enough and fast enough, that if you become disabled or die early ---- which are covered by those SS benefits that will pay you and your family...you'll take care of that with private insurance too...and of course it will come before anything else....because if it doesn't ME (and everyone else) WILL HAVE TO PAY FOR YOU. (Again, for those too simple to understand...the wrong one of the above actions would mean there would be a loss of the investment...and nothing for the investor to use in retirement or his family upon early death or disability. And society will still have to care for them).

Of course if you had the ability to do even a few of those things well, the small @7K (on @ 100K annual income) that is the max SS can get every year...would make virtually no difference to you, certainly not enough to care about. One would think, under those circumstances you would be making enough money on your successful investing, that your portfolio is large enough your happy to have the investment security and diversity provided by SS, and you would appreciate the superior return you would likely get from SS).

See, you can't be trusted!
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