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If we decided as a society that we were going to put $2,000 a year into a savings account from the day each child was born until he or she reaches age 18 — and if we assume a 6% annual interest rate — each child would have $65,520 at age 18. (The worst return for a 25-year investor in the stock market from 1929 before the crash to 2004 was an average of 6% a year.) With no further contributions, again with a 6% interest rate, those savings would grow to $1,013,326 at age 65.
If we began to do this now, the first-year cost would be $8 billion; that is $2,000 times the roughly 4 million children born each year. The second year would cost $16 billion and so on until we were contributing $2,000 per year to a savings account for every child from birth until age 18. When fully implemented, the cost would be $144 billion per year. To put this $144 billion per year into context, this year's combined spending for Social Security and Medicare will exceed $750 billion.
What this plan would do is "pre-fund" for the needs of old age. It solves the long-term financing problem for both Social Security and Medicare, allowing for the gradual replacement of programs like Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid and food stamps and housing aid for those over age 65. To make this work, the savings account money would need to be invested — my suggestion would be through so-called index funds. The administrative costs would be practically nothing because there's no need for a huge separate tax collection bureaucracy; the money would come from the general revenues of the U.S. government.