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Retirement Income Adequacy for Boomers and Gen Xers: Evidence from the 2012 EBRI Retirement Security Projection Model®

20 Pages Posted: 24 May 2012  

Jack VanDerhei

Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)

Date Written: May 2012


Measuring retirement security -- or retirement income adequacy -- is an extremely important topic. EBRI launched a major project to provide this type of measurement in the late 1990s for several states concerned whether their residents would have sufficient income when they reached retirement age. After conducting studies for Oregon, Kansas, and Massachusetts, a national model -- the EBRI Retirement Security Projection Model® (RSPM) -- was developed in 2003, and in 2010 it was updated to incorporate several significant changes, including the impacts of defined benefit plan freezes, automatic enrollment provisions for 401(k) plans, and the recent crises in the financial and housing markets. EBRI has recently updated RSPM for changes in financial and real estate market conditions as well as underlying demographic changes and changes in 401(k) participant behavior since January 1, 2010 (based on a database of 23 million 401(k) participants). This paper provides updates for the previously published EBRI Retirement Readiness Ratings™ as well as the Retirement Savings Shortfalls. EBRI’s updated 2012 Retirement Security Projection Model® finds that for Early Baby Boomers (individuals born between 1948-1954), Late Baby Boomers (born between 1955-1964) and Generation Xers (born between 1965-1974), roughly 44 percent of the simulated lifepaths were projected to lack adequate retirement income for basic retirement expenses plus uninsured health care costs. These “at-risk” levels are some 5-8 percentage points LOWER than what was found in 2003, largely due to the growing adoption of automatic enrollment by 401(k) plan sponsors. Eligibility for a workplace defined contribution retirement plan has a significant positive impact on “at-risk” levels. The aggregate retirement income deficit number, taking into account current Social Security retirement benefits and the assumption that net housing equity is utilized “as needed,” is currently estimated to be $4.3 trillion for all Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.

The PDF for the above title, published in the May 2012 issue of EBRI Notes, also contains the fulltext of another May 2012 EBRI Notes article abstracted on SSRN: “Trends in Employment-Based Coverage Among Workers, and Access to Coverage Among Uninsured Workers, 1995-2011.”

Keywords: 401(k) plans, Defined contribution plans, Employment-based benefits, Home equity, Pension plan coverage, Retirement income, Retirement planning, Savings

JEL Classification: D31, D91, J26, J33

Suggested Citation

VanDerhei, Jack, Retirement Income Adequacy for Boomers and Gen Xers: Evidence from the 2012 EBRI Retirement Security Projection Model® (May 2012). EBRI Notes, Vol. 33, No. 5 (May 2012). Available at SSRN:

Jack VanDerhei (Contact Author)

Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) ( email )

1100 13th Street, NW
Suite 878
Washington, DC 20005-4204
United States


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