Are Retirees Falling Short? Reconciling the Conflicting Evidence

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The brief‘s key findings are:

  • Federal Reserve data show that retirement preparedness has been declining over time, but studies on the level of preparedness offer conflicting assessments.
  • The National Retirement Risk Index (NRRI) finds half of households are “at risk,” while studies of optimal savings suggest less than one-tenth will fall short.
  • The optimal savings results depend crucially on two assumptions:
    • households spend less when their kids leave home (the NRRI assumes no decline); and
    • households plan for declining consumption in retirement (the NRRI assumes steady consumption).
  • While the issue remains unsettled, the Federal Reserve data are consistent with the NRRI finding that retirement shortfalls are a growing problem.