NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Retirement Security Lags Asset Gains

December 18, 2013

You would think that gains in the stock market and the rebound in housing values would be improving the retirement security of many Americans. But that's not the case, according to a recent analysis, says MarketWatch.

  • Despite the gains, there was only a modest improvement in the National Retirement Risk Index, a measure from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
  • The index measures the percentage of working-age households at risk of being unable to maintain their current standard of living once they enter retirement.
  • Given 2013 asset prices, half of households were figured to be "at risk."
  • That's down from 53 percent in 2010, yet still up from 44 percent in 2007.

The reason the improvement was so modest: Most of the gains occurred in the stock market. The inflation-adjusted increase in house prices has been a modest 6 percent nationally since 2010; meanwhile there has been a 45 percent real increase in equity prices, according to the paper. "The house is a much more significant asset than stock holdings for most households, making trends in house prices a major influence on the NRRI [National Retirement Risk Index] results," researchers wrote.

  • For low-income households, equities make up only 2 percent of their total wealth.
  • Middle-income households have 6 percent of their total wealth in stocks.
  • High-income households have 17 percent of total wealth in stocks.

The thresholds for the income groups vary by age. For example, a household between 45 and 47 years old would be considered low-income if it made less than $49,500 a year; it would be considered high-income if it made more than $90,500 a year.

Source: Amy Hoak, "Retirement Security Lags Asset Gains," MarketWatch, December 12, 2013. Alicia H. Munnell, Anthony Webb and Rebecca Cannon Fraenkel, "Will the Rebound in Equities and Housing Save Retirement?" Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, December 2013.


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