Why Do Late Boomers Have So Little Retirement Wealth?


The brief’s key findings are:

  • With the gradual shift from defined benefit plans to 401(k)s, younger age cohorts would be expected to have more retirement wealth in 401(k)s.
  • However, data for the Late Boomers at ages 51-56 show a surprising drop in 401(k)/IRA assets compared to earlier cohorts at the same ages.
  • Late Boomers were particularly hard hit by the Great Recession, with a significant share remaining out of the labor force even as the economy recovered.
  • But even those who were working had lower earnings, less 401(k) participation, and flat 401(k) balances.
  • Why Late Boomers were hit so hard, why they have struggled since, and the fate of future cohorts remain open questions.

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