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National Retirement Risk Index: How Much Longer Do We Need to Work?


  • Alicia H. Munnell
  • Anthony Webb
  • Luke Delorme
  • Francesca Golub-Sass


The National Retirement Risk Index (NRRI) measures the share of American households “at risk” of being unable to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living in retirement. The NRRI is determined by comparing households’ projected replacement rates – retirement income as a percentage of pre-retirement income – with target rates that would allow them to maintain their living standards. A recent update shows that, in the wake of the financial crisis and the Great Recession, 51 percent of today’s working households are at risk.1 But a key assumption of the NRRI is that people retire at age 65. Clearly if people worked longer, the percentage at risk would decline. This brief adapts the NRRI calculations to address the question: At what age would the vast majority of households be ready to retire? The discussion proceeds as follows. The first section lays out the nuts and bolts of the NRRI and explains how it has been adapted for this analysis. Projected replacement rates are calculated not only for the generally assumed retirement age of 65, but also for every potential retirement age between 50 and 90. These replacement rates are then compared to a target rate to determine the percentage of house-holds “ready” for retirement at each age. The second section presents the results, showing the cumulative percentage of households ready for retirement at dif-ferent ages, with breakdowns by income and current age.2 The third section addresses how much longer households have to work beyond age 65 to be pre-pared for retirement. The final section concludes that over 85 percent of households would be prepared to retire by age 70. Thus, many individuals will need to work longer than their parents did, but they will still be able to enjoy a reasonable period of retirement, es-pecially as health and longevity continue to improve.

Suggested Citation

  • Alicia H. Munnell & Anthony Webb & Luke Delorme & Francesca Golub-Sass, 2012. "National Retirement Risk Index: How Much Longer Do We Need to Work?," Issues in Brief ib2012-12, Center for Retirement Research, revised Jun 2012.
  • Handle: RePEc:crr:issbrf:ib2012-12

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Katharine Anderson & Eric French & Tina Lam, 2004. "You can't take it with you: asset run-down at the end of the life cycle," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q III, pages 40-54.
    2. Alicia H. Munnell & Francesca Golub-Sass & Dan Muldoon, 2009. "An Update on 401(k) Plans: Insights From the 2007 SCF," Issues in Brief ib2009-9-5, Center for Retirement Research, revised Mar 2009.
    3. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2004. "Aging and Housing Equity: Another Look," NBER Chapters,in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 127-180 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Jonathan D. Fisher & David S. Johnson & Joseph T. Marchand & Timothy M. Smeeding & Barbara Boyle Torrey, 2007. "No Place Like Home: Older Adults and Their Housing," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 62(2), pages 120-128.
    5. Farnham, Martin & Sevak, Purvi, 2006. "State fiscal institutions and empty-nest migration: Are Tiebout voters hobbled?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(3), pages 407-427, February.
    6. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2000. "Aging and Housing Equity," NBER Working Papers 7882, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Shan, Hui, 2010. "Property taxes and elderly mobility," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 194-205, March.
    8. Calvo, Esteban & Haverstick, Kelly & Zhivan, Natalia, 2009. "Determinants and Consequences of Moving Decisions for Older Homeowners," MPRA Paper 48964, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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