2012 is shaping up to be the year the Great Entitlements Debate shifts into high gear. A central issue in the debate is how Americans look at their seniors. Are they a drain on younger generations' finances and benefits? Or are they struggling with meager retirement funds and rising healthcare costs?
Several new studies show the truth is a combo of both. The payroll tax isn't keeping up with benefits, so most seniors are getting more out of Medicare and Social Security than they put in. They're also better off than many: in 2010, the U.S. poverty rate was 15.1%, but among seniors, it was just 9%.
However, studies also show that most seniors' wealth is wrapped up in home equity and retirement nest eggs, which most experts say are still to small. And many are continuing to work past retirement age.