Coming Up Short: The Scope of Retirement Insecurity Among Illinois Workers
WOODSTOCK INSTITUTE | September 2012 1
Millions of Americans are approaching retirement age without adequate retirement savings. The ongoingforeclosure and financial crisis and declines in housing values wiped out trillions in savings and home equity thatpeople counted on using to help support themselves later in life. American workers, particularly those nearingretirement, are deeply concerned about income insecurity and fear that they will outlive their savings. Withoutadequate savings, American workers face the prospect of a decline in their standard of living during retirement. Thenegative impact of the lack of adequate retirement savings will fall not only on the individual workers involved; itwill also have adverse impacts on the rest of the economy.
One of the principal sources of investment capital forthe private sector will shrink, and the public sector will face increasing demands to address the needs of the growingnumbers of older Americans living in poverty. Helping workers save for retirement should be a high priority forpolicymakers, according to 78 percent of people surveyed.
The purposes of this report are to identify the principal sources of retirement income, examine the extent and typesof workers facing retirement insecurity, and explore the necessary components of a state-level public policy solutionthat could help to address the problem. Using employment data by industry and estimated retirement plansponsorship rates, this report shows how many workers in Illinois, especially those in industries with traditionallylow-wage workers, lack access to one of the mainstays of retirement income: a tax-deferred, employment-basedretirement savings plan. The report concludes with a discussion of the essential components of a state policy thatwould expand access to tax-deferred, employment-based retirement savings plans.
Sources of Retirement Income
Retirement income is derived from four main sources: earnings, assets, Social Security, and employment-basedretirement plans. Looking at the relative contribution each source makes to retirement income and the trends thatindicate how they may change in the future, the results suggest that most households will not have adequate incomein retirement unless public policies facilitate increased retirement savings.
Earnings are a small percentage of retirement income for most households.
The Wall Street Journal
reports that over 1.3 million people age 75 and older were working as of December 2011, up 25 percentfrom 2005.
Income from earnings, however, represents only a small fractionof total retirement income—6.2percent or less for households in the bottom 60 percent of incomes as of 2008.
Assets are a small and decreasing percentage of retirement income for mosthouseholds.
Accumulated home equity is the principal asset for most American households, one on whichhomeowners have traditionally relied as a source of retirement income. The decline in the housing market hasresulted in millions of homeowners with negative equity, meaning they owe more on their mortgages than theirhomes are worth, and has left millions more with greatly reduced assets to generate income in retirement. Theimpact of the decline in housing values is reflected in the net worth of households. The median net worth of households fell by more than 28 percent between 2005 and 2010, from $93,200 to $66,740.
Dalirazar, N., M. S. Vornovytskyy, and D. Hedengren, 2010.
Can Americans Afford to Retire?
Washington, DC: U. S. CensusBureau.
Opinion Research on Retirement Security and the Automatic IRA, August 2009. Downloaded from the AARP website onFebruary 10, 2012.
The Wall Street Journal
Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), October 2009. EBRI Databook on Employee Benefits, Chapter 7, Table 7.5. Forhouseholds with incomes in the fourth Quintile (60
percentiles), earnings provided 14.1 percent of retirement income,and in the top quintile, they provided 39.3 percent of retirement income.
Data for Charts 1-3 are from the U. S. Census Bureau, Net Worth and Asset Ownership of Households, 2005 and 2010, Table 1,for Charts 1-3.