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Retirement and Older Americans

Retired CoupleOur extensive work on retirement policy covers the many ways the aging of America will trigger changes in how we work, retire, and spend federal resources.

The number of Americans age 65 and over will rise from about 13 percent in 2008 to 20 percent by 2040. The recession dealt a heavy blow to retirement accounts, leaving many older adults worried about their retirement security. Read more.

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Raising Medicare Premiums for Higher-Income Beneficiaries: Assessing the Implications (Policy Briefs)
Juliette Cubanski, Tricia Neuman, Gretchen Jacobson, Karen E. Smith

As policymakers consider ways to slow the growth in Medicare spending as part of broader efforts to reduce the federal debt or offset the cost of other spending priorities, some have proposed to increase beneficiary contributions through higher Medicare premiums. Some proposals would increase Medicare premiums paid by all beneficiaries, while others would raise premiums only for beneficiaries with higher incomes. This issue brief explains provisions of current law that impose income-related premiums under Medicare Part B and Part D, describes recent proposals to modify these requirements, and analyzes the potential implications for the Medicare population.

Posted to Web: February 28, 2014Publication Date: January 15, 2014

Income and Assets of Medicare Beneficiaries, 2013 - 2030 (Policy Briefs)
Gretchen Jacobson, Jennifer Huang, Tricia Neuman, Karen E. Smith

Many Medicare beneficiaries live on fixed incomes supplemented by the savings they accumulated during their working years. Their income and savings are tied to many life experiences, including their education, health status, marital status, number of work years, household income, access to employer retirement benefits, inheritance, and various economic factors. As a result, the income and assets of Medicare beneficiaries vary greatly. This brief describes the income and assets of Medicare beneficiaries now and in the future and provides context for understanding the extent to which current and future generations of beneficiaries can afford to absorb higher health care costs.

Posted to Web: February 28, 2014Publication Date: January 09, 2014

Labor Force Statistics on Older Americans, Third Quarter 2013 (Research Report)
Richard W. Johnson, Benjamin G. Southgate

This data brief reports quarterly labor force statistics for older Americans, a growing segment of the workforce. It reports labor force participation rates, unemployment rates, employment-to-population ratios, and the share of unemployed workers who have been out of work for more than six months, and compares outcomes to earlier years. Labor market outcomes did not improve much for older or younger workers in the third quarter of 2013. Older workers continue to fare better than their younger counterparts, although older unemployed adults take longer to find work.

Posted to Web: January 24, 2014Publication Date: December 20, 2013

Behavioral Adaptation and Late-Life Disability: A New Spectrum for Assessing Public Health Impacts (Article)
Brenda Spillman, Additional Authors

Only about a third of Americans ages 65 and older are fully able to manage all daily activities independently, according to new research from the 2011 National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS). Another 30 percent are able to accommodate declining health or functioning by using assistive devices or scaling back their activities, 18 percent have trouble managing even with any devices they may use, and 21 percent receive help. These findings are based on innovative data NHATS collected for a nationally representative sample of 8,077 older Medicare beneficiaries. The data allow a more nuanced look at late life function than previously has been possible and can contribute to better understanding of ways older adults adapt to disability and to development of public health policies to maximize the quality of life for older Americans.

Posted to Web: December 16, 2013Publication Date: December 12, 2013

Validating Longitudinal Earnings in Dynamic Microsimulation Models: The Role of Outliers (Research Report)
Melissa M. Favreault, Owen Haaga

Rapid growth in the earnings of the highest earners over the past 25 years has contributed to strains on Social Security’s finances and made projecting lifetime earnings on a year-by-year basis-already a complicated technical problem-even more challenging. This project uses descriptive techniques and high-quality administrative data matched to household surveys to explore questions about the changing earnings distribution. We describe high earners' characteristics, both at a point in time and over longer periods (from 1983 through 2010). We then evaluate how well SSA's MINT7 model projects inequality in the earnings distribution and the long-term characteristics of earnings paths.

Posted to Web: November 15, 2013Publication Date: November 08, 2013

Social Security and Medicare Taxes and Benefits over a Lifetime: 2013 Update (Fact Sheet / Data at a Glance)
C. Eugene Steuerle, Caleb Quakenbush

These tables update to 2013 previous estimates of the lifetime value of Social Security and Medicare benefits and taxes for typical workers in different generations at various earning levels based on new estimates of the Social Security Actuary. The "lifetime value of taxes" is based upon the value of accumulated taxes, as if those taxes were put into an account that earned a 2 percent real rate of return (that is, 2 percent plus inflation). The "lifetime value of benefits" represents the amount needed in an account (also earning a 2 percent real interest rate) to pay for those benefits. All amounts are presented in constant 2013 dollars.

Posted to Web: November 12, 2013Publication Date: November 12, 2013

Has Social Security Redistributed to Whites from People of Color? (Research Report)
Caleb Quakenbush, Karen E. Smith, C. Eugene Steuerle

This brief considers how Social Security’s many benefit and tax features have redistributed across groups over time. Using Current Population Survey data from 1970 through 1994 and microsimulation projections from the Urban Institute’s DYNASIM3 model, we find that for many decades, Social Security redistributed from blacks, Hispanics, and other people of color, to whites. These transfers will likely to continue in future decades. Our findings suggest that future reforms that place the burden of Social Security reform solely on younger, more diverse generations may have undesired distributional consequences if the aim of the program is to provide greater relative protections to more vulnerable groups.

Posted to Web: November 07, 2013Publication Date: November 06, 2013

Retirement Income Challenges in the Twenty-First Century: Testimony before the Senate Special Committee on Aging (Testimony)
Richard W. Johnson

Richard Johnson describes the key challenges to retirement security in this testimony to the U.S. Senate's Special Committee on Aging. Although median retirement incomes will continue to rise in inflation-adjusted terms for generations retiring through the 2030s, increasing shares of Americans will see their living standards fall as they enter retirement because retirement incomes are not keeping pace with earnings. High out-of-pocket medical and especially long-term care costs pose the greatest threat to older Americans’ economic security. Income inequality is also growing at older ages and many seniors have difficulty turning retirement account balances into lifelong income.

Posted to Web: September 25, 2013Publication Date: September 25, 2013

Income and Wealth of Older Adults Needing Long-Term Services and Supports (Testimony)
Richard W. Johnson

In his testimony before the federal Commission on Long-Term Care, Richard Johnson reports that most older adults who receive Medicaid-financed nursing home care have low incomes and very little wealth, both while on the program and for at least a decade before entering a nursing home. These results suggest that efforts to promote individual saving for long-term care may not move many people off Medicaid or reduce program costs because most Medicaid nursing home residents haven’t had the means to save much.

Posted to Web: August 21, 2013Publication Date: August 01, 2013

How Did the Great Recession Affect Social Security Claiming? (Policy Briefs/Retirement Project Brief Series)
Richard W. Johnson, Karen E. Smith, Owen Haaga

Social Security retirement claiming grew in 2009 as unemployment soared. The increase was modest, however, because unemployment growth at older ages was largely offset by growth in the number of older adults choosing to work longer. Half of women and more than half of men now wait until after age 62 to claim their retirement benefits, the largest proportions in decades. The recent increase in Social Security's full retirement age has prompted many retirees to wait at least until they turn 66 years old to begin collecting benefits, as a quarter of men now claim at that age or later.

Posted to Web: July 29, 2013Publication Date: July 29, 2013

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