Baby Boomers in Retirement: What Are Their Prospects?

July 1994
EBRI Issue Brief #151 | Special Report SR-23
Paperback, 36 pp.
PDF, 465 kb
Employee Benefit Research Institute, 1994

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Executive Summary

  • This Issue Brief examines the baby boomers' retirement income prospects by analyzing trends in the elderly's income and pension participation among workers; examining saving behavior and critically evaluating studies of the adequacy of the boomers' saving; and looking at tenure trends, lump-sum distribution preservation, and changes in Social Security benefits.
  • Since the mid 1970s, the real median income of individuals aged 65 and over has increased 18 percent. Sources of income have shifted, with employment-based pensions increasing and earnings and asset income decreasing as a proportion of income.
  • The boomers' prospects are partly dependent on participation in employment-based retirement plans. After decreases in the sponsorship rates, participation rates, and vesting rates of workers during the 1980s, all three percentages increased during the early 1990s.
  • Data do not support the perception that the U.S. work force is becoming increasingly mobile. Tenure levels for prime age workers in the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s were higher than those of previous decades. Still, in response to competitive pressures, employers may not offer the security of paternalistic benefit packages as in the past.
  • Various studies have reached different conclusions regarding the adequacy of the boomers' financial preparation for retirement. Evidence indicates that boomers, in general, will enjoy a retirement standard of living exceeding that of their parents. It is less clear whether they will maintain a standard of living in retirement comparable to that of their working years. To the extent they are willing to tap housing wealth, they would appear at this early stage to be in good shape.
  • Federal fiscal policy decisions will impact boomers by affecting their disposable income today, and thus their ability to save, as well as the benefits they will receive in retirement through Social Security and Medicare.
  • The boomers are 17 to 35 years away from age 65. Given the heterogeneity of the boomers, research is needed to identify what specific groups within the generation are at risk and the magnitude of that risk. Groups that would now appear to be at risk to some degree include non-homeowners, the less educated, the single, and the youngest boomers.