How Much Income Do Retirees Actually Have?
Recent research by Bee and Mitchell (2017) has refocused attention on the fact that the Current Population Survey (CPS) underestimates retirement income. In the wake of this study, some observers have questioned whether other surveys more frequently used by retirement researchers also understate retirement income and, if so, whether prior research suggesting that many households are unprepared for retirement is accurate. This paper addresses both questions by examining retirement income data from the CPS and four other surveys: 1) the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF); 2) the Health and Retirement Study (HRS); 3) the Panel Survey of Income Dynamics (PSID); and 4) the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). The paper compares the income measures from each survey to administrative data from tax and Social Security records, both in aggregate and across the income distribution. It then uses a common measure of retirement income adequacy, the replacement rate, to assess overall household preparedness for retirement.