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The Adequacy of Retirement Resources among the Soon-to-Retire, 1983-2001

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  • Edward N. Wolff

Abstract

A central issue confronting soon-to-retire workers (i.e., those aged 47Ð64) is whether they will have command over enough resources (both private and public) to maintain a decent standard of living in retirement. Typically, the adequacy of projected retirement income is judged in relation to some absolute standard (e.g., poverty threshold) and preretirement income (Òreplacement rateÓ). Using data from the Federal Reserve BoardÕs Survey of Consumer Finances for 1983, 1989, and 2001, I find that expected retirement income grew robustly from 1989 to 2001 (by 38 percent in real terms) and the share with expected retirement income less than twice the poverty line fell by 5 percentage points. The percentage-point decline was even greater for minority households (11.6) and single females (5.7). The change in the share with replacement rates over 50 percent was 4.5 percentage points, though in this case much lower for minorities (0.9 percentage points) and single females (1.8 percentage points). However, percentage point changes for minorities and single females were much smaller, at 75 percent and a 100 percent replacement rates, respectively. Moreover, retirement wealth is very unevenly distributed. Whites and married couples had substantially larger wealth accumulations than their respective counterparts.

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Paper provided by Levy Economics Institute, The in its series Economics Working Paper Archive with number wp_472.

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Date of creation: Aug 2006
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Handle: RePEc:lev:wrkpap:wp_472

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  1. Bloom, David E & Freeman, Richard B, 1992. "The Fall in Private Pension Coverage in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(2), pages 539-45, May.
  2. Alan L. Gustman & Olivia S. Mitchell & Andrew A. Samwick & Thomas L. Steinmeier, . "Pension and Social Security Wealth in the Health and Retirement Study," Pension Research Council Working Papers 97-3, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  3. Johnson, Richard W & Sambamoorthi, Usha & Crystal, Stephen, 2000. "Pension Wealth at Midlife: Comparing Self-Reports with Provider Data," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 46(1), pages 59-83, March.
  4. Feldstein, Martin & Liebman, Jeffrey B., 2002. "Social security," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 32, pages 2245-2324 Elsevier.
  5. Edward N. Wolff, 2005. "Is the Equalizing Effect of Retirement Wealth Wearing Off?," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_420, Levy Economics Institute, The.
  6. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1999. "What People Don't Know About Their Pensions and Social Security: An Analysis Using Linked Data from the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Working Papers 7368, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. James P. Smith, 2003. "Trends and Projections in Income Replacement during Retirement," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(4), pages 755-782, October.
  8. Poterba, James M & Venti, Steven F & Wise, David A, 1998. "401(k) Plans and Future Patterns of Retirement Saving," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 179-84, May.
  9. Olivia S. Mitchell & James Moore & John Phillips, . "Explaining Retirement Saving Shortfalls," Pension Research Council Working Papers 98-13, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  10. James F. Moore & Olivia S. Mitchell, . "Projected Retirement Wealth and Saving Adequacy," Pension Research Council Working Papers 98-1, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
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