Cover: Retirement Security and Financial Decision Making

Retirement Security and Financial Decision Making

Published Jan 2, 2020

by Philip Armour, Katherine Grace Carman, Angela A. Hung

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Financial planning for retirement in the United States has never been more important. Americans now have greater control on how much to accumulate during their working years, and how much to deaccumulate during their retirement. With greater control also comes great responsibility for the individual. As this individual-level responsibility has increased so has the relevance of making the right claiming decision about Social Security, which for many will be the only source of life-time income protected against inflation. Longer life spans, and especially longer post-retirement life spans, have also raised long-term care costs for households, further requiring careful financial planning for retirement.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Office of Older Americans seeks to provide older Americans with resources to help them plan for their retirement. To do so, they also need a greater knowledge of which populations are the most at risk. In this report, we seek to identify leading indicators of financial insecurity in retirement that can assist the Office of Older Americans in 1) identifying key decisions prior to retirement that may be correlated with insecurity in later years, and 2) identifying populations who may benefit most from targeted information.

Individuals and households who are financially secure are able to meet their financial goals. In this report, we develop three measures of financial security, related to three common financial goals, among retired Health and Retirement Study (HRS) respondents. These measures cover ability to pay for regular expenses, ability to pay for long-term care costs, and the ability to bequest. Since the HRS follows the same households over time, interviewing them every two years, we investigate whether these financial security measures are associated with decisions made leading up to and during retirement. Doing so allows us to track which decisions are associated with more secure finances as retired individuals continue to age. By examining these financial security measures and how certain financial decisions are related to them, we explore whether current retirees' are able to balance between regular expenses, maintaining sufficient wealth to cover the costs of long-term care, should the need arise, protecting against longevity risks, and leaving a bequest to their heirs.

Research conducted by

This research was sponsored by the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection and conducted by the Center for Financial and Economic Decision Making within RAND Education and Labor.

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