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Published: Jan 24, 2023 5 min read
Senior couple looking over bills and a calculator in their kitchen
Money; Getty Images

Alarm bells are ringing in Washington. The United States recently hit its debt limit — the cap on how much money the federal government is allowed to borrow to pay for all its financial obligations, including Social Security and Medicare payments, salaries for the military, tax refunds and more.

The Treasury Department has already begun taking “extraordinary measures” to ensure the country can keep making payments, though Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that it is difficult to know how long those measures will last. If lawmakers cannot agree to raise the debt limit and increase the amount of money the U.S. can borrow, the country runs the risk of defaulting on its debt — something that has never happened before.

Without an agreement in the currently divided Congress, experts are predicting a default could come as early as this summer. Some are already sounding the alarm about potential disruptions to Social Security payments.

Here’s what you need to know.