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What Replacement Rates Do Households Actually Experience In Retirement?


  • Alicia H. Munnell

    () (Center for Retirement Research)

  • Mauricio Soto

    () (Center for Retirement Research)


This paper estimates how much people actually receive in retirement relative to earnings before retirement when all sources of income, including income generated by homeownership, are combined. Previous studies find that middle class people need between 70 and 75 percent of their pre-retirement earnings to maintain their life style once they stop working. The objective of this study is to determine what people are actually receiving in retirement. Regardless of how retirement income and pre-retirement income are defined, households with pensions appear to meet the threshold of adequacy. Those without pensions do not fare as well, and some must be really struggling. Taking into account a comprehensive measure of income both before and after retirement - including housing - produces replacement rates for those with pensions of 79 percent for couples and 89 percent for single person households. Those without pensions have replacement rates of 62 percent for couples and 63 percent for singles. These replacement rates drop about 15 percentage points, however, when recent earnings (the highest five years of the last ten) are used as the benchmark. The overall the picture is good. But today is in some sense the "golden age" of retirement income. Today's retirees are claiming Social Security benefits before the extension in the retirement age to 66 and then 67, which is equivalent to an across-the-board cut in benefits. Today's retirees also do not face the huge deductions in their Social Security check to cover Medicare premiums for Part B and Part D that tomorrow's retirees will. And today, the average retiree does not pay personal income tax on his Social Security benefits, whereas future retirees will increasingly see a portion of their benefits subject to taxation. Finally, most of today's retirees are covered primarily by a defined benefit plan and do not face the uncertainty associated with the inadequate lump-sum payments from 401(k) plans. The comfortable circumstances of today's retirees make it very hard to call attention to the challenges that future retirees will face.

Suggested Citation

  • Alicia H. Munnell & Mauricio Soto, 2006. "What Replacement Rates Do Households Actually Experience In Retirement?," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2005-10, Center for Retirement Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:crr:crrwps:wp2005-10

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    Cited by:

    1. Alicia H. Munnell & Mauricio Soto, 2008. "The Housing Bubble and Retirement Security," Issues in Brief ib2008-8-12, Center for Retirement Research, revised Aug 2008.
    2. Beshears, John & Choi, James J. & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2011. "Behavioral economics perspectives on public sector pension plans," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(02), pages 315-336, April.
    3. Flood, Lennart & Klevmarken, N. Anders & Mitrut, Andreea, 2006. "The Income of the Swedish Baby Boomers," IZA Discussion Papers 2354, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Binswanger, J., 2008. "A Simple Bounded-Rationality Life Cycle Model," Discussion Paper 2008-13, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    5. Antonia Diaz & Maria Jose Luengo Prado, 2008. "On the User Cost and Homeownership," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 11(3), pages 584-613, July.
    6. David A. Love & Paul A. Smith & Lucy C. McNair, 2008. "A New Look At The Wealth Adequacy Of Older U.S. Households," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 54(4), pages 616-642, December.
    7. Sun Wei & Triest Robert K. & Webb Anthony, 2008. "Optimal Retirement Asset Decumulation Strategies: The Impact of Housing Wealth," Asia-Pacific Journal of Risk and Insurance, De Gruyter, vol. 3(1), pages 1-29, September.
    8. Hryshko, Dmytro & José Luengo-Prado, María & Sørensen, Bent E., 2010. "House prices and risk sharing," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(8), pages 975-987, November.
    9. Ndiaye, Abdoulaye, 2017. "Flexible Retirement and Optimal Taxation," Working Paper Series WP-2018-18, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, revised 05 Nov 2018.
    10. Michael D. Hurd & Susann Rohwedder, 2015. "Measuring Economic Preparation for Retirement: Income Versus Consumption," Working Papers wp332, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    11. Demyanyk, Yuliya & Hryshko, Dmytro & Luengo-Prado, Maria Jose & Sorensen, Bent E., 2016. "Moving to a new job: the role of home equity, debt, and access to credit," Working Papers 16-1, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    12. Lukasz A. Drozd & Ricardo Serrano-Padial, 2017. "Modeling the Revolving Revolution: The Debt Collection Channel," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(3), pages 897-930, March.
    13. Campbell, Doug & Weinberg, John A., 2015. "Are We Saving Enough? Households and Retirement," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue 2Q, pages 99-123.
    14. Barry Bosworth & Rosanna Smart, 2009. "The Wealth of Older Americans and the Sub-Prime Debacle The Wealth of Older Americans and the Sub-Prime Debacle," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2009-21, Center for Retirement Research, revised Nov 2009.
    15. Abdoulaye Ndiaye, 2018. "Flexible Retirement and Optimal Taxation," 2018 Meeting Papers 535, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    16. Alicia H. Munnell & Marric Buessing & Mauricio Soto & Steven A. Sass, 2006. "Will We Have To Work Forever?," Work Opportunity Briefs wob_4, Center for Retirement Research, revised Jul 2006.

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    replacement rates; retirement; pension plans; social security;

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