Retirement Savings Inequality: Different Effects of Earnings Shocks, Portfolio Selections, and Employer Contributions by Worker Earnings Level
By Joelle Saad-Lessler (The New School for Social Research), Teresa Ghilarducci (Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis (SCEPA); The New School for Social Research), Gayle Reznik (U.S. Social Security Administration)
Changes in accumulated retirement savings, particularly in employer-sponsored defined contribution (DC) plan balances, differ by worker’s earnings levels. Earnings shocks, portfolio diversification, and employer contributions to worker’s DC plans affect retirement savings for lower earners more than for higher earners. The authors match Survey of Income and Program Participation data to Social Security Administration earnings records and find factors underlying the different retirement savings outcomes by earnings level beyond mere differences in earnings.