Saturday, October 24, 2009

Income of American Retirees

Interesting discussion in the comments on a Krugman post on retirement income based around this pie chart of income sources of Americans of 65 and older in the 75% to 50% quartile (second from top):

The chart shows that only 9% of this group's income comes from assets - i.e. 401k's, taxable accounts, rental housing etc. But some major caveats are needed in order to understand the results:

1. The asset income does not include capital gains or drawdowns of principal. In reality this group is far more reliant than this on assets they own for their income.

2. The data is for 2008 when interest rates were hitting record lows and dividends were being cut. Income in previous years would have been higher.

3. Defined benefit pensions rely on underlying investments in capital assets, usually the retirees are not exposed to the fluctuations in the underlying investments unless the plan ends up collapsing due to underfunding...

By the way, here is the income sources for the top quartile:

They do get a greater share of their income from assets but they are also working more or more of them are working.

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