While the stock market is up, the ability of Americans to retire is not.
In a new report released Wednesday, the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found that half of U.S. households remain at risk of being unable to maintain their standard of living in retirement, despite the surge in stock market and housing prices over the last three years.
The report calculates the National Retirement Risk Index, which showed that 53% of American households were at risk as of 2010. It then calculates what it would be if the gains in the stock and housing markets since 2010 were taken into account. The market increases would have only a slight impact on the share of households at risk, bringing it down to 50%, according to the report.
The reason for the modest change is that the upswing occurred primarily in the stock market, which jumped a dramatic 45% since the third quarter of 2010, benefiting mainly the top third of households. In contrast, the increase in housing prices, which impacts a broader swath of U.S. households, was muted, rising only about 6%.
The report takes a decidedly grim view of the future. While market fluctuations will have some impact of retirement risk, the report insists that the fluctuations are unlikely to change the fundamental message that half of todays working-age households are unlikely to have enough resources to maintain their standard of living once they retire. The only way out of this box, write the authors of the report, is for people to save more and/or work longer.
The findings are consistent with a new retirement preparedness measure Fidelity Investments released the same day. It found that 55% of working Americans are in fair or poor condition when it comes to being able to cover estimated essential living expenses in retirement, including housing, health care and food. On average, Americans are on track to meet just 74% of their estimated retirement expense goals, Fidelity found.
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