Retirement Research

EBRI has been conducting research on retirement plans since its founding in 1978. The first work was related to retirement program coverage and participation, funding and capital markets, retirement income adequacy, modeling as a tool for understanding long term financial implications of retirement programs, and issues related to "social investing" of pension assets. Work has continued in all of these areas, as others have been added. The current program is divided into the areas described below. These are not all inclusive or exclusive, and if there are topics you believe EBRI should focus research on please contact us.

Retirement Security Research Center (EBRI RSRC) - This center houses the EBRI IRA Database,™ which contains 14.85 million IRA accounts holding $1 trillion in assets. The database is being expanded to track owners’ behavior over time within the accounts, including contributions, withdrawals, rollovers, and asset allocation changes. Our recent publications show account balance, rollover, and contribution activity within IRAs. Further results will include asset allocation and changes in accounts over time. This center also houses the integrated EBRI defined contribution/IRA database, which allows EBRI to track individual defined contribution participants as they change jobs and/or retire and roll over their assets into IRAs. EBRI uses this information to track retirees’ decumulation behavior as a function of individual characteristics and market dynamics.

Defined Benefit Plans (including Cash Balance) - This program tracks trends in defined benefit plans (often relative to defined contribution plans) and includes analysis on cash balance and other hybrid plans. EBRI has recently used it Retirement Security Projection Model to simulate the results of benefit accrual freezes in traditional final average plans as well as various scenarios with respect to cash balance plans.

Defined Contribution and Participant Behavior Research Program - This program was initiated in 1994 in response to increasing interest of EBRI members in the impact of sponsor and/or provider educational efforts on the investment behavior of participants in participant-directed defined contribution plans. The initial program objective has been expanded to include aspects of interest in defined contribution plans, such as participant behavior in asset allocations, contribution levels and participation, and the response to participant behavior by plan sponsors and service providers.

Individual Accounts / IRAs - Research on this topic estimates the level of participation in, contributions to, asset allocation in, account balances of, and earnings within IRAs. The results are broken down by various demographic and work force characteristics.

Plan Trends and Participation - Employment-based retirement plan coverage and participation by workers is investigated in this research. The participation levels are examined across various demographic and work force characteristics of American workers.

Retirement Security Projection Model - The Retirement Security Projection Model is used to model the expected retirement income derived from Social Security and retirement plans for birth cohorts from 1936-1965 with results broken out by gender and family status. This is combined with a hybrid model for analyzing retiree expenditures: stochastic for some expenditures (e.g., home health care and nursing facilities) and deterministic for others (e.g., housing and food). This results in a tool capable of analyzing the retirement income adequacy of various demographic groups under baseline assumptions as well as various policy scenarios.

Saving for Retirement - Research on this topic focuses on the attitudes and behavior of American workers and retirees towards all aspects of saving, retirement planning, and long-term financial security as well as on the savings levels needed to reach retirement income goals.

Wealth - Research conducted in this topic area examines the wealth of Americans with particular interest of those near or over age 65. Furthermore, the sources and the amount of income that the elderly receive is investigated with special focus on pension income.