SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch)—Almost half of U.S. retirees die with savings of $10,000 or less, but that grim finding doesn’t fully describe the variability and uncertainty that characterize retirement in America, according to a recent study.
While some retirees struggle profoundly, living at or below the poverty line, others enjoy wealth and health—in fact, the two are strongly linked—while still others have little in savings but enjoy a decent income, according to the report, based on a survey that tracked retirees from 1993 through 2008.
While 46% of retirees have just $10,000 in savings when they die, “That doesn’t mean their standard of living is very low—they might have a relatively generous pension plan, most of them will have Social Security,” said James Poterba, professor of economics at M.I.T., president of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and a co-author of the study.
But the findings “suggest something about the financial resiliency of these households,” Poterba added. “They may not have much capacity to absorb a shock, such as an out-of-pocket medical expenditure. They don’t have very much in the way of liquid assets they can access.”Read the study here.
When net worth is measured—including savings, home equity, the value of Social Security and pension benefits, and more—retirees’ financial picture around the time of death looks less bleak. Single people had average assets of about $142,000, those whose spouse had died previously had average assets of $253,000, and couples where the surveyed retiree had died but the other spouse was still living had average assets of $692,000, according to the study.
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