Research Report Social Security & Medicare Lifetime Benefits and Taxes: 2021
C. Eugene Steuerle, Karen E. Smith
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This report presents updated figures in 2021 dollars for the lifetime benefits earned and the lifetime taxes paid by hypothetical workers participating in Social Security and Medicare. For a single male earning average wages every year and retiring in 2020 at age 65, lifetime Social Security and Medicare benefits would exceed $550,000. For a couple with one average earner and one low-wage earner, benefits would exceed $1.1 million. Past Congresses have scheduled those figures roughly to double in value for millennials who retire around 2060. Social Security and Medicare taxes, on the on the other hand, continue to fall well short of the benefits that current and future cohorts will receive. Given likely unsustainability of this system, looking at lifetime, not just annual, benefits and taxes allows policymakers to ascertain better how benefits and taxes might most fairly and efficiently be adjusted to achieve sustainability.

Research Areas Taxes and budgets
Tags Tax policy and charities
Policy Centers Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center