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Economic Well-Being

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Retirement Plan Assets (Updated 4/13) (Research Brief)
Barbara Butrica

The retirement savings of American households took a big hit when the stock market crashed in 2008. Since then, however, a good portion of these losses has been reversed. This fact sheet reports the value of assets held in retirement accounts and defined benefit plans and how they have changed since 2007-before the stock market crash and the Great Recession. It replaces "Retirement Account Balances"

Posted to Web: April 05, 2013Publication Date: April 05, 2013

Financial Consequences of Long-Term Unemployment during the Great Recession and Recovery (Policy Briefs/Unemployment and Recovery)
Richard W. Johnson, Alice Feng

Extended job loss dealt a serious financial blow to many workers during the Great Recession and recovery. Despite the protection provided by unemployment insurance benefits, family incomes fell 40 percent or more for half of workers unemployed for at least six consecutive months between August 2008 and December 2011. About a quarter began experiencing economic hardship, including more than a third of African Americans, Hispanics, and unmarried adults. Social Security shielded most workers ages 62 and older from the worst outcomes, although early retirees receive lower monthly retirement checks for the rest of their lives, possibly causing financial hardship later.

Posted to Web: April 05, 2013Publication Date: April 05, 2013

The Changing Causes and Consequences of Not Working before Age 62 (Series/The Retirement Project Discussion Papers)
Barbara Butrica, Nadia Karamcheva

This study considers nonworking older adults and their channels of support before qualifying for Social Security benefits. Results show that among adults ages 55 to 61, nonearners are more likely than earners to be poor, to be concerned about not having adequate resources for retirement, and to be dissatisfied with their retirement when they do retire. However, nonearners are a heterogeneous group. A large share is poor, with low incomes and limited wealth. But a sizeable share is income-poor and asset-rich. More than for singles, this phenomenon characterizes nonworking married adults, who are generally better off than their unmarried counterparts.

Posted to Web: April 05, 2013Publication Date: December 31, 2012

Is Household Debt Growing for Older Americans? (Series/Older Americans' Economic Security)
Nadia Karamcheva

An increasing number of Americans are entering old age with outstanding debt, forcing many retirees to devote some income to servicing their debt and leaving them with less to cover daily living expenses. Using Health and Retirement Study (HRS) data, this brief reports that the share of adults ages 65 and older with outstanding debt increased from 30 to 46 percent between 1998 and 2010. The inflation-adjusted median value of debt grew 56 percent over the period and the average ratio of total household debt over total household assets more than doubled.

Posted to Web: January 31, 2013Publication Date: January 31, 2013

Automatic Enrollment, Employee Compensation, and Retirement Security (Discussion Papers)
Barbara Butrica, Nadia Karamcheva

This study uses restricted microdata from the National Compensation Survey to examine the impact of autoenrollment on employee compensation. By boosting plan participation, automatic enrollment likely increases employer costs as previously unenrolled workers receive matching retirement plan contributions. Our data shows a significant negative correlation between employer match rates and autoenrollment. We find no evidence that total costs differ between firms with and without autoenrollment or that DC costs crowd out other forms of compensation-suggesting that firms might be lowering their match rates enough to completely offset the higher costs of autoenrollment without needing to reduce other compensation costs.

Read the full report here (Leaving the UI web site)

Posted to Web: December 19, 2012Publication Date: December 10, 2012

Economic Security Improves in 2011 (Research Report)
Austin Nichols, Additional Authors

U.S. household economic instability, as measured by the Economic Security Index (ESI), fell 1.3 percentage points from 2010 (20.2 percent) to 2011 (18.9 percent), the largest year-over-year decline in the last quarter century. States in the west saw decreases in measured instability, while some central states saw increases in measured instability.

Posted to Web: November 01, 2012Publication Date: November 01, 2012

Financial Preparedness for Long-Term Care Needs in Old Age (Research Report)
Brenda Spillman

There is little evidence that the first of the baby boom generation or the retirees to follow are financially prepared for the risk of potentially catastrophic costs of disability-related long-term care. Both the high cost of insurance and uncertainty about its value are widely thought to account for the lack of preparedness. This chapter reviews evidence on the risk of long-term care, types of long-term care, financial risks, and consumer knowledge of these risks. Common and not-so-common options for private financing of long-term care and barriers to their widespread adoption are discussed. A final section briefly reviews policies in place or proposed for increasing private preparation.

Posted to Web: October 31, 2012Publication Date: October 31, 2012

How Pension Reforms Neglect States' Recruitment and Retention Goals (Policy Briefs)
Richard W. Johnson, C. Eugene Steuerle, Caleb Quakenbush

To control rising pension costs, many states are reducing the generosity of the retirement plans they offer their employees, partly by increasing required employee contributions. These reforms, however, ignore the employee recruitment and retention problems created by traditional pension plans. Using New Jersey as a case study, this brief shows how state retirement plans discourage younger workers from joining the state's workforce, lock in middle-aged workers even if a job is not a good fit, and push older workers into retirement. Recent reforms make these plans even less appealing to a modern, mobile workforce.

Posted to Web: July 16, 2012Publication Date: July 16, 2012

State Pension Reforms: Are New Workers Paying for Past Mistakes? (Policy Briefs)
Richard W. Johnson, C. Eugene Steuerle, Caleb Quakenbush

When state pension plans are underfunded, someone eventually has to pay for the shortfall. Many recent reforms designed to improve plan finances shift burdens to the young, particularly by making many new employees net contributors to—rather than beneficiaries of—these plans. Using New Jersey as a case study, this brief shows how states require higher levels of employee contributions, invest them in somewhat risky assets, and then, like a bank or financial intermediary, pay back many employees less in benefits than what they contributed and expected to earn on those contributions.

Posted to Web: July 16, 2012Publication Date: July 16, 2012

Young and Mobile? State Pensions May Not Be an Appealing Match (Press Release)
Urban Institute

Twenty-somethings fresh out of college or graduate school may need to rethink starting jobs in state government, cautions a report from the Urban Institute's Program on Retirement Policy. The new recruits could end up paying for their state’s unfunded pension liabilities without much to show for their efforts.

Posted to Web: July 16, 2012Publication Date: July 16, 2012

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