EBRI Issue Brief

The Impact of Deferring Retirement Age on Retirement Income Adequacy

Jun 7, 2011 36  pages


UPDATE OF RSPM—POST-65 RETIREMENT AGES: The EBRI Retirement Security Projection Model® (RSPM) was developed in 2003 to provide an assessment of national retirement income prospects. The 2011 version of RSPM adds a new feature that allows households to defer retirement age past age 65 in an attempt to determine whether retirement age deferral is indeed sufficiently valuable to mitigate retirement income adequacy problems for most households (assuming the worker is physically able to continue working and that there continues to be a suitable demand for his or her skills). The answer, unfortunately, is not always “yes,” even if retirement age is deferred into the 80s.

LOWEST-INCOME LEVELS, 50-50 CHANCE OF ADEQUACY: RSPM baseline results indicate that the lowest preretirement income quartile would need to defer retirement age to 84 before 90 percent of the households would have a 50 percent probability of success. Although a significant portion of the improvement takes place in the first four years after age 65, the improvement tends to level off in the early 70s before picking up in the late 70s and early 80s. Households in higher preretirement income quartiles start at a much higher level, and therefore have less improvement in terms of additional households reaching a 50 percent success rate as retirement age is deferred for these households.

LOWEST-INCOME LEVELS, HIGHER CHANCES OF ADEQUACY: If the success rate is moved to a threshold of 70 percent, only 2 out of 5 households in the lowest-income quartile will attain retirement income adequacy even if they defer retirement age to 84. Increasing the threshold to 80 percent reduces the number of lowest preretirement income quartile households that can satisfy this standard at a retirement age of 84 to approximately 1 out of 7.

IMPORTANCE OF DEFINED CONTRIBUTION RETIREMENT PLANS: One of the factors that makes a major difference in the percentage of households satisfying the retirement income adequacy thresholds at any retirement age is whether the worker is still participating in a defined contribution plan after age 65. This factor results in at least a 10 percentage point difference in the majority of the retirement age/income combinations investigated.

FACTORING IN RETIREMENT HEALTH COSTS: Another factor that has a tremendous impact on the value of deferring retirement age is whether stochastic post-retirement health care costs are excluded (or the stochastic nature is ignored). For the lowest preretirement income quartile, the value of deferral (in terms of percentage of additional households that will meet the threshold by deferring retirement age from 65 to 84) decreases from 16.0 percent to 3.8 percent by excluding these costs. The highest preretirement income quartile experiences a similar decrease, from 12.8 percent to 2.6 percent.