Adequacy of Economic Resources in Retirement: Model-Based Estimations

Published: 2008
Project ID: UM08-11


The most common metric for assessing the adequacy of economic preparation for retirement is the income replacement rate, the ratio of income after retirement to income before retirement.  However both economic theory and common sense say that someone is adequately prepared if she is able to maintain her level of economic well-being, which is not the same as maintaining her level of income or some fixed proportion of income. Economic well-being is typically measured by consumption, which is the measure we use. We define and estimate measures of economic preparation for retirement based on a complete inventory of economic resources, particularly wealth, which we compare with optimal consumption paths. We find that a substantial majority of those just past the usual retirement age are adequately prepared for retirement in that they will be able to finance a path of consumption that begins at their current level of consumption and then follows an age-pattern similar to that of current retirees. This is not true, however, for all groups in the population. In particular, almost half of singles who lack a high school education are likely to be forced to reduce consumption. Couples are much better prepared than singles. But because of taxes a substantial number of married college graduates will have to reduce consumption.