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AARP The Magazine

Rob on the Road

Myths About the 50+

When it comes to Social Security, Medicare, both young and old are affected

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On my recent visits, many of you told me you have heard that the older generation is collecting benefits at the expense of young people. This pops up often in conversations about cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let's refute a few related myths.

Myth 1: Older people are a drain on the economy, leaving the next generation with less

Truth: Americans age 50-plus bolster the U.S. economy, says an analysis by Oxford Economics for AARP.

The economic contribution by older Americans — $7 trillion a year — is expected to almost double by 2032. Plus, taxes from the economic activity generated by their spending make up almost half of federal tax revenue and more than half of state and local taxes. That includes $1 trillion of economic activity annually from Social Security benefits and, per the AARP Public Policy Institute, $222 billion in tax revenue supported by Social Security benefits alone.

Myth 2: Social Security and Medicare benefit only older Americans

Truth: Social Security and Medicare help people of all ages.

Almost one of five Social Security beneficiaries is under age 60, and more than 4.4 million children get benefits. Seventeen percent of Medicare beneficiaries — about 8.5 million Americans — are under 65.

Social Security death and disability benefits are lifelines for workers and their families, including millions of young people. I know that firsthand. When I was a boy, these benefits were the difference between eating and not eating for my sister and me. Social Security and Medicare help keep entire families financially stable.

Myth 3: The young and old are rival armies in a struggle over finite resources, and the old are winning

Truth: One day the young will be old, and they will need the protections of Social Security and Medicare every bit as much as older adults do today.

Young and old are Americans at different stages in life's journey. Older people help younger people; later, the caregivers become the cared for. Family members depend upon one another. We should be talking about intergenerational solidarity, not intergenerational warfare.

We're all in this together.

Robert Romasco is the president of AARP.

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