Recently Senator Marco Rubio, a 2016 Republican presidential hopeful, shared his thoughts on reforming America's retirement system. Below are some of his recommendations, followed by my comments and ratings on a five-point scale. Ratings (with five stars as the highest score) recognize the uniqueness of the idea, the courage to express it and the potential that, if implemented, it would result in more good than bad.

Raising the Social Security retirement age. Nothing new here. Most experts believe it is just a matter of time before it is necessary to raise all Social Security retirement ages (full and partial benefits).

Rating: ***

Reduce Social Security benefits for the wealthy. Means testing Social Security is a smart move and one that is long overdue. Why aren't all government benefits means tested? If we hope to gain control over government spending, approaching benefits from a means testing perspective needs to gain wider acceptance.

Rating: ****

Eliminate the payroll tax for older workers. It is becoming clear that many baby boomers haven't saved enough and will have to work during retirement. Eliminating the payroll tax (commonly referred to as the Social Security tax) of 12.4% not only makes it more appealing to hire older workers, but allows them to keep more of their income.

Rating: *****

Eliminate the earnings test for early retirees. Currently, anyone collecting Social Security benefits before their full benefit retirement age is subject to Social Security benefit reduction for earnings above $15,000. With many Americans needing to collect Social Security benefits as soon as possible, and continue working, this benefit reduction makes little sense.

Rating: *****

Opening up the federal Thrift Savings Plan. Giving private sector employees at small companies access to the Thrift Savings Plan is a great idea. If the concept is implemented and proven successful, it should be expanded to include all small employers who wish to participate (even if they have existing retirement plans). The lower costs small company employees would experience through the Thrift Savings Plan make this idea a winner.

Rating: *****

There will be winners and losers with each proposed change. However, it appears the majority of Americans affected would experience meaningful, positive change.

Robert C. Lawton is President of Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC ( an RIA firm helping retirement plan sponsors with their investment, fiduciary, employee education and compliance responsibilities. He may be contacted at or 414.828.4015.

What do you think of Senator Rubio's ideas? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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