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Retirement and Older Americans

Retired CoupleOur extensive work on retirement policy covers the many ways the aging of America will trigger changes in how we work, retire, and spend federal resources.

The number of Americans age 65 and over will rise from about 13 percent in 2008 to 20 percent by 2040. The recession dealt a heavy blow to retirement accounts, leaving many older adults worried about their retirement security. Read more.

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Understanding Older Drivers: An Examination of Medical Conditions, Medication Use, and Travel Behavior (Research Report)
Sandra Rosenbloom, Robert Santos

Almost 90% of people 65 and older are drivers. While older people are among the safest on the road they are more likely to use multiple medications which could interfere with driving safely. This report provides baseline information on the relationship between medical conditions, medication use, and the travel behavior of older drivers from two large national data bases: the 2009 National Household Travel Survey and the 2011 National Health and Aging Trends Study. We found that most older drivers take multiple medications and drive frequently but also self-regulate their behavior in important ways that reduce crash risk.

Posted to Web: July 15, 2014Publication Date: April 01, 2014

Flattening Tax Incentives for Retirement Saving (Research Report)
Barbara Butrica, Benjamin H. Harris, Pamela Perun, C. Eugene Steuerle

Under current law, a large share of tax benefits for retirement saving accrues to high-income employees. We simulate the short- and long-term effect of three policy options for flattening tax incentives and increasing retirement savings for low- and middle-income workers. Our results show that reducing 401(k) contribution limits increases taxes for high-income taxpayers; expanding the saver's credit raises saving incentives and lower taxes for low- and middle-income taxpayers; and replacing the exclusion for retirement saving contributions with a 25 percent refundable credit benefits primarily low- and middle-income taxpayers, and raises taxes and reduces retirement assets for high-income taxpayers.

Posted to Web: June 30, 2014Publication Date: June 30, 2014

Policy Brief: How Will Teachers Fare in Rhode Island's New Hybrid Pension Plan? (Summary)
Richard W. Johnson, Barbara Butrica, Owen Haaga, Benjamin G. Southgate

Hybrid retirement plans that combine defined benefit pensions with 401(k) type, defined contribution accounts can play important roles in the reform of public-sector pensions. Summarizing results from our longer report, this brief shows that most public school teachers in Rhode Island will earn more retirement income from the state’s new hybrid plan than they would have earned in the former stand-alone defined benefit plan. However, teachers with at least 25 years of completed service, who account for only one-quarter of the total employed by the state, will fare worse in the hybrid plan.

Posted to Web: May 30, 2014Publication Date: May 30, 2014

How Will Rhode Island's New Hybrid Pension Plan Affect Teachers? (Research Report)
Richard W. Johnson, Barbara Butrica, Owen Haaga, Benjamin G. Southgate

In 2011 Rhode Island replaced the stand-alone defined benefit pension plan it provided to state employees with a hybrid plan that reduced the defined benefit component and added a 401(k)-type, defined contribution component. Although controversial, the new hybrid plan will boost retirement incomes for most of the state’s public school teachers. Our simulations show that two-thirds of newly hired teachers will earn more retirement benefits under the hybrid plan they would have earned under the old plan. Defined contribution plans—the dominant employer-sponsored retirement plan in the private sector—can play an important role in the reform of public-sector pensions.

Posted to Web: May 30, 2014Publication Date: May 30, 2014

A Primer on Modeling Income in the Near Term, Version 7 (MINT7) (Research Report)
Karen E. Smith, Melissa M. Favreault

Modeling Income in the Near Term (MINT) is a dynamic microsimulation model developed by the Urban Institute and others for the Social Security Administration to facilitate analysis of proposals to change Social Security benefits and payroll taxes. This primer describes MINT’s development history. It then details the model’s starting sample and the specification of its demographic and economic aging modules, including the calculators that compute various benefits and taxes. It also provides information about previous analyses that have relied on MINT.

Posted to Web: May 23, 2014Publication Date: October 01, 2013

Adding Employer Contributions to Health Insurance to Social Security's Earnings and Tax Base (Research Report)
Karen E. Smith, Eric Toder

Including employer-sponsored health insurance (ESI) in taxable compensation would increase income and payroll tax receipts, but would also increase Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) benefits by adding ESI to the OASDI earnings base. The increased present value of OASDI benefits from including ESI in the wage base in 2014 would offset about 22 percent of increased income and payroll taxes, 57 percent of increased payroll taxes, and 72 percent of increased OASDI taxes. Both taxes and benefits as a share of income would increase between the bottom and middle quintiles and then decline for higher income taxpayers.

Posted to Web: May 01, 2014Publication Date: April 30, 2014

For Many State and Local Workers Public Pensions Offer Little Retirement Security, Urban Institute Study Shows (Press Release)
Urban Institute

That shiny retirement nest egg may not be so golden for the nation’s 19 million state and local government workers, an exhaustive Urban Institute analysis of 660 state-administered pension plans shows.

Posted to Web: April 30, 2014Publication Date: April 30, 2014

How Will State and County Government Employees Fare under Kentucky's New Cash Balance Pension Plan? (Research Report)
Richard W. Johnson, Benjamin G. Southgate

Kentucky recently replaced its traditional pension with a new cash balance plan for state and county employees hired after 2013. Employees who join the government payroll at relatively young ages and remain for no more than 25 years will accumulate more benefits in the cash balance plan than the traditional plan, while many of those with more years of service and hired at older ages will accumulate less. More than half of employees hired in 2014 who complete at least five years of service will fare better in the cash balance plan, which distributes benefits more evenly across the workforce.

Posted to Web: April 30, 2014Publication Date: April 30, 2014

When Do State and Local Pension Plans Encourage Workers to Retire? (Research Brief)
Richard W. Johnson, Barbara Butrica, Owen Haaga, Benjamin G. Southgate

Traditional defined benefit pension plans that cover nearly all state and local government employees generally penalize work at older ages. In more than three-fifths of state-administered plans, employees hired at age 25 will receive lower lifetime pension benefits if they continue working after age 57 because retirement-eligible workers cannot receive benefit checks while they remain on the job. This reduction in benefits can create strong retirement incentives, which are hard to justify as the population ages and health gains and declines in physical work enable more older people to work. Well-designed public pension reforms could eliminate these work disincentives.

Posted to Web: April 30, 2014Publication Date: April 30, 2014

How Long Must State and Local Employees Work to Accumulate Pension Benefits? (Research Brief)
Richard W. Johnson, Barbara Butrica, Owen Haaga, Benjamin G. Southgate

Traditional defined benefit pension plans that cover nearly all state and local government employees generally provide generous retirement benefits to long-tenured public servants but little retirement security to those with shorter tenures. Virtually every plan requires employee contributions. In half of those plans, employees must work at least 20 years before their future benefits are worth more than those contributions. Employees who separate earlier get nothing from their plan. Alternative designs like cash balance plans distribute benefits more equally across the workforce and allow employees who spend less than a full career in public service to accumulate retirement benefits.

Posted to Web: April 30, 2014Publication Date: April 30, 2014

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