The NCSL Blog


By Anna Petrini

Baby boomers began turning 65 in 2011. More than 26 million have hit the mark so far. Happy birthday to the 10,000 boomers who turn 65 every day between now and 2030.

Sue Ellen King returned to work at UF Health in Jacksonville, Fla., after retiring in 2015. Credit Charlotte Kesl for The New York Times  In a study released Tuesday, the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) found 42 percent of baby boomers have nothing saved for retirement. Among boomers who do have retirement savings, 38 percent have less than $100,000 saved.

IRI surveyed Americans age 55 to 71 and discovered that only 25 percent believe that they will have enough money in retirement. While a growing number (25 percent) plan to retire earlier than age 65, 29 percent expect to work past age 70, according to IRI.  

More and more older Americans are extending their careers. Growing numbers take retirement, then “unretire.” Others partially retire, remaining in the workplace, but cutting back to part-time hours. A 2017 survey from RAND Corporation found almost 40 percent of workers over 65 had previously retired at some point.

Unexpected health care costs and other financial hardships can certainly drive these decisions, but social and intellectual and engagement along with a general sense of satisfaction in a job well done can also provide compelling incentives to remain in the workforce.

However, as Americans live longer, their financial fragility can increase. Today millions of older Americans live in poverty and many more have not saved enough to retire comfortably.   

The U.S. Social Security Administration estimates 1 in 2 retired households counts on Social Security for 50 percent of its total income. Poorer retirees often lack pensions or large 401(k)s and are the most dependent on Social Security as a result. Two in three poor- and low-income older Americans get 90 percent of their money from the program.

The welfare of millions of boomers and younger demographics aside, if they have little or no retirement savings, or outlive the savings they do have, policymakers must consider the impact on government programs.

Today marks the end of National Retirement Planning Week, a nationwide effort to help consumers concentrate on their retirement security and an opportunity for policymakers to examine how they can help boomers and other generations of savers achieve a dignified retirement.

Throughout the week, the National Retirement Planning Coalition, a group of prominent education, consumer advocacy and financial services organizations, led by IRI, has been hosting a series of activities to focus national attention on retirement readiness.

Read additional information about the coalition’s work and the week’s events. 

Anna Petrini is a policy specialist in NCSL’s Employment, Labor and Retirement Program.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.