Thursday, October 27, 2016

Upcoming Webinar, Nov. 17: “Replacing the Replacement Rate: How Much is ‘ENOUGH’ Retirement Income?”

Live Webinar Thursday, November 17th with expert instructor Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald.



LIVE WEBINAR with Dr. Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald, PhD FSA
Replacing the Replacement Rate: How Much is "ENOUGH" Retirement Income?
Thursday, November 17, 2016, 1:00 – 2:15 PM EST
1.5 Hours SOA CPD, CAS CE, Core EA CE Credit
This webinar can fulfill requirements for organized credit.
The “final earnings replacement rate” (where 70% is often advocated as the “right” target) has been the longstanding and widespread measure of retirement income adequacy - financial planners use this benchmark, as do actuaries (and other pension plan advisors), academics, and public policy analysts.  It underlies our pension systems, drives the research that determines whether populations are prepared or not prepared for retirement, and is the backbone of retirement planning software. But does it do the job that it is supposed to do? Will 70% of a worker’s final annual employment earnings sustain living standards after retirement?
This presentation examines whether workers who hit this target actually can expect to maintain their living standards in retirement.  I also discuss an alternative, more accurate, basis for assessing how well a worker’s living standards are maintained after retirement - the Living Standards Replacement Rate.
Based on ten years of research and analysis in industry, academia, and government, this presentation answers the often posed but never answered question "how much is ENOUGH retirement income?"
This award-winning work has been published in a prestigious peer-reviewed academic journal, which can be downloaded without fee:
Learning Objectives

  1. Learn an alternative, and more accurate, way to measure retirement income adequacy
  2. Discover the validity of the conventional final earnings replacement rate
  3. Understand Retirement Income Adequacy

Who Should Attend?
Actuaries, public policy analysts, pension plan sponsors, financial planners, and academics who work within the field of pensions, state retirement income systems or retirement financial planning

Register for this Webinar >

Can't attend the live webinar? Email us and we'll notify you when a recording is available.

Instructor Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald, PhD, FSA is a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries and an academic researcher in Halifax, Canada. Her research focuses on financial security for an aging population, asking pertinent questions from a holistic perspective by incorporating and integrating the often-ignored elements such as home ownership, medical expenses, the financial circumstances of family members, and the government's complex tax and transfer system.

Building on best practices from the academic world, while combining innovative research with industry need, her goal is to improve the retirement financial security of people in practice (and not just in theory). She received the 2001 Gold Medal in Actuarial Science (Hon BSc) at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, a PhD in Actuarial Mathematics at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Actuarial Sciences at the University of Waterloo, and a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Economics at Dalhousie University. In 2011, she was selected as one of the top 'young economists' by the Canadian government to attend the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Germany. She is a regularly invited guest speaker, and her ideas are increasingly being adopted by industry, government, and academia, in both Canada and abroad. The work that she will be presenting won the 2014 Pension, Benefits and Social Security Scientific Committee Award Prize for Best Paper at the 30th International Congress of Actuaries in April 2014.

Early pricing ends on Thursday, November 3rd 2016 for this webinar.
The registration fee includes access to the webcast recording and supplemental materials for up to 180 days.



Early Registration

Regular Registration


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2-100 Terminals



EA Credit Information:
The Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries (JBEA) has approved ACTEX as a qualifying sponsor of continuing professional education (CPE) programs for enrolled actuaries.
ACTEX believes in good faith that you may earn continuing professional education (CPE) non-core non-ethics credits under the Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries (JBEA) rules for attending this webinar. The JBEA makes the final determination about what constitutes core, non-core, ethics, or non-ethics CPE and the number of CPE credit hours allocated.

Discount for Full-Time Students
Students with current enrollment as a full-time student at any college/university are eligible for a 50% discount. In order to access this discount, please email proof of enrollment using your college/university e-mail address to Examples of enrollment proof would be a copy of your registration information, or an unofficial transcript.

Discount for Educators
Faculty members of any accredited higher-education institution are eligible for a 20% discount. In order to access this discount, please contact us via email ( using your college/university e-mail address.

Discount for Regulatory Actuaries
Regulatory Actuaries (Regulators) are eligible for a 30% discount. In order to access this discount, please contact us via email ( using your government email address.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Research Funding Opportunity: 2017 Sandell Grant Program and 2017 Dissertation Fellowship Program

Boston College Center for Retirement Research
2017 Sandell Grant Program and 2017 Dissertation Fellowship Program

2017 Sandell Grant Program and 2017 Dissertation Fellowship Program
The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College announces the 2017 Sandell Grant Program and 2017 Dissertation Fellowship Program for research in areas such as retirement income, older workers, or well-being in retirement. These programs are funded by the U.S. Social Security Administration.

- Provides the opportunity for junior scholars to pursue projects on retirement income and policy issues. The program is open to scholars in all academic disciplines.
- Awards up to five grants of $45,000 for one-year projects.
- The submission deadline for grant proposals is January 31, 2017. Grant award recipients will be announced by April 2017.
- Visit the Sandell Program website to view the proposal guidelines:

- Supports doctoral candidates writing dissertations on retirement income and policy issues. The program is open to scholars in all academic disciplines.
- Awards up to five fellowships of $28,000.
- The submission deadline for proposals is January 31, 2017.
- Visit the Dissertation Fellowship website to view the proposal guidelines:

FURTHER INFORMATION: For questions, please contact: Marina Tsiknis, 617-552-1092

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Research Job Opening at Social Security

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is looking for an executive to lead its Office of Research, Demonstration and Employment Support as the Associate Commissioner (AC) responsible for providing leadership and accountability over the program analysis and research development activities that support SSA’s disability and income security programs. The AC provides executive direction to an organization with approximately 100 employees and is responsible for ensuring programs under his/her purview are administered in an effective and efficient manner and align with the SSA mission and strategic objectives. The AC reports directly to the Deputy Commissioner and Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Disability Policy; the position’s duty station is either Washington, DC or the agency’s Headquarters campus in Woodlawn, Maryland.

The AC is responsible for maintaining awareness of issues concerning broad program policy environments, including Congress, the private sector, and other government agencies to ensure that SSA's policy and research agendas consider and reflect these points of view.  S/he directs studies of program policy issues related to the development and evaluation of SSA Disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program initiatives and legislative and policy proposals. S/he identifies trends in the SSI and Disability programs and compiles and analyzes data on various aspects of those programs. S/he designs, implements and evaluates demonstration projects to target special populations and/or program issues.  S/he formulates agency policy regarding crosscutting programs or issues related to disability and/or income assistance programs and interacts with other government agencies, including the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, and Labor.

The applicant should have a broad knowledge of Social Security laws, regulations, and policies, senior level experience with a wide array of research and demonstration projects, return to work initiatives in the public or private sector, and demonstrated senior level experience in planning, directing, managing and overseeing a large, fast-paced organization. Activities also include human resources management, collaboration with multiple internal and external customers, knowledge of congressional legislation, assessing political and operational impact of decisions with a high degree of quality, and providing first class service to the public being served.

The complete vacancy announcement can be found on USAJOBS; direct link is below.

Associate Commissioner for Research, Demonstration, and Employment Support:  SSA-EX-480

Applicants should address the leadership and technical requirements of the position, describe work accomplishments, how they have exercised leadership to deliver significant results, experience collaborating/communicating and cooperating to achieve goals, and experience leading strategic change and overcoming obstacles to effectuate those changes.


J. Jioni Palmer
Associate Commissioner for External Affairs
(T) 410-965-1804

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Monday, October 24, 2016

New paper: “The Role of Social Security in Overall Retirement Resources: A Distributional Perspective”

The Role of Social Security in Overall Retirement Resources: A Distributional Perspective
by Sebastian Devlin-Foltz, Alice Henriques, and John Sabelhaus.

Median retirement wealth in the bottom 50 is substantially lower than in the top 50. However, when one accounts for Social Security, the differences in total retirement wealth across the distribution are much less severe. To think about retirement readiness, we examine the ratio of retirement assets to usual income (final two columns). The main takeaway message on retirement readiness is that Social Security goes a long way towards explaining why differences in DB and DC retirement wealth do not translate into dramatic shocks to living standards across the income distribution as a given cohort crosses over into retirement. Median total retirement wealth (including Social Security) is much lower for the bottom half of the usual income distribution, but relative to median income, it is roughly the same as for the next 45 percent income group, and more than double the same ratio for the top 5 percent.


Click here to read the whole paper.

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Raising Social Security Taxes Means Big Cuts in Other Tax Revenues

Over at Forbes, I look at how increases in Social Security taxes – either eliminating the ceiling on wages subject to payroll taxes or applying Social Security taxes to investment income – could cause reductions in federal income taxes, Medicare payroll taxes, and state income taxes.

Assuming smaller effects of tax rates on taxable incomes, one-third to one half of Social Security revenue gains from eliminating the payroll tax ceiling would be offset by revenue losses elsewhere in the budget. Using assumptions that find a larger behavioral response, eliminating the Social Security tax max would raise only a small fraction of net revenues than is commonly assumed. Non-Social Security losses from Social Security reforms should not be a trivial concern for policymakers.

You can read the whole article here.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Upcoming event: ““The Potential Impact of Mandated Employer Pension Programs on Retirement Savings”

Please join us for a meeting of the Savings and Retirement Foundation with guest speaker
Barbara Butrica
Karen E. Smith

Who will discuss their new paper:
“The Potential Impact of Mandated Employer Pension Programs on Retirement Savings”
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Noon-1:00 p.m.



601 E Street NW
Washington, DC 20005

(Lunch will be provided)

Barbara Butrica is a labor economist with expertise in aging and income dynamics. She studies issues related to the economic security of the baby boom generation, pensions, Social Security, and the engagement of older adults. Butrica has published her research in peer-reviewed journals and has written numerous research reports and briefs for general audiences.

Karen Smith is a senior fellow in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute, where she is an internationally recognized expert in microsimulation. Over the past 30 years, she has developed microsimulation models for evaluating Social Security, pensions, taxation, wealth and savings, labor supply, charitable giving, health expenditure, student aid, and welfare reform.  

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Upcoming event: “Public Attitudes toward Social Security Reform.”

Please join us October 18 for an event co-hosted by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and Voice of the People focused on where the public stands regarding the need for changes to protect and secure Social Security.

Event Participants Include:

• Dr. Steven Kull (Director, Program for Public Consultation, University of Maryland, School of Public Policy)

• Romina Boccia (Deputy Director and Grover M. Hermann Research Fellow in Federal Budgetary Affairs, The Heritage Foundation)

• Kathleen Romig (Senior Policy Analyst, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

• Marc Goldwein (Senior Vice President and Senior Director of Policy, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget)

Tuesday, October 18

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Capitol Building Room HC - 8

(On the House side of the Capitol building - use South Entrance)

Lunch will be served starting at 11:45 am

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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

New paper from the Federal Reserve: “The Role of Social Security in Overall Retirement Resources: A Distributional Perspective”

The Role of Social Security in Overall Retirement Resources: A Distributional Perspective

By Sebastian Devlin-Foltz, Alice Henriques, and John Sabelhaus

During recent decades, the US employer-sponsored retirement system has undergone a major shift from primarily defined benefit (DB)-type plans to primarily defined contribution (DC)-type plans. Furthermore, in the past decade, participation in employer retirement plans has fallen, particularly for younger and lower-income families. In light of this, there is growing concern that wealth accumulation through employer-provided pension plans is falling short, especially for the bottom half of the income distribution.2

However, focusing only on employer-sponsored pensions provides an incomplete picture; it has left the public pension, Social Security, out of the discussion. Social Security provides near universal coverage and calculates benefits progressively, leaving lower-income households with much higher replacement rates relative to their pre-retirement income. Claims to future Social Security benefits are a key component of retirement wealth, and thus failure to include Social Security leads to a biased assessment of the overall distribution of retirement wealth.


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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Social Security Advisory Board Releases Annual Report

Board releases 2015 annual report

The Board is pleased to release the 18th Annual Report of the Social Security Advisory Board. The annual report is also available on the Board’s website ( It chronicles the events and activities in which the Board engaged in during 2015.

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New papers from the Social Science Research Network

"What's Happening with Retirement Saving and Retirement Incomes? Better Data Tell a Better Story"

ANDREW G. BIGGS, American Enterprise Institute

Both households and policymakers are concerned about retirement security, amidst widespread perceptions that households are not saving adequately for retirement. But many of the commonly-cited data understate retirement plan availability and participation as well as the income that retirees derive from IRA and 401(k) plans. Moreover, many observers contrast these unduly pessimistic data with a prior "Golden Age" of traditional pensions, when data show that most U.S. workers never participated in such plans and onerous vesting requirements prevented many from receiving substantial benefits. A perception that most Americans are falling far short of their retirement saving goals may cause policymakers to overlook targeted polices to assist the smaller number of households who truly are at risk of an inadequate income in retirement.

"Do Savings Increase in Response to Salient Information About Retirement and Expected Pensions?"
ZEW - Centre for European Economic Research Discussion Paper No. 16-059

MATHIAS DOLLS, Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW), Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)
PHILIPP DOERRENBERG, Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW), Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), CESifo Institute
ANDREAS PEICHL, Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW), University of Mannheim - School of Economics (VWL), Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), University of Essex - Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER)
HOLGER STICHNOTH, Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW)

How can retirement savings be increased? We explore a unique policy change in the context of the German pension system to study this question. As of 2004, the German pension authority started to send out annual letters providing detailed and comprehensible information about the pension system and individual expected pension payments. This reform did not change the level of pensions, but only manipulated the knowledge about and salience of expected pension payments. Using German tax return data, we exploit two discontinuities in the age cutoffs of receiving such a letter to study their effects on private retirement savings. Our results show that the letters increase private retirement savings. The effects are fairly sizable and persistent over several years. We further show that the letter increases labor earnings, and that the increase in savings partly crowds out charitable donations. Moreover, we present evidence suggesting that both information and salience drive the savings effect. Our paper adds to a recent literature showing that policies that go beyond the traditional neoclassical reasoning can be powerful to increase savings rates.

"How Does Student Debt Affect Early-Career Retirement Saving?"
CRR WP 2016-9

MATTHEW S. RUTLEDGE, Boston College, Center for Retirement Research
GEOFFREY SANZENBACHER, Boston College Economics Department
FRANCIS M. VITAGLIANO, Boston College - Center for Retirement Research

This paper examines the relationship between student loans and retirement saving behavior by 30-year-old workers. Total outstanding student loan debt in the United States has quintupled since 2004. Rising student debt levels mean that young workers must reduce either their consumption or their saving. To what extent do these workers cut back on retirement saving? Existing studies have lacked adequate data or controls for studying this issue: conventional financial datasets include too few younger households; the study samples used include older households whose student debt may be from their children’s education instead of their own; and many studies lack important controls to capture differences between attendees with more or less student debt. This study uses the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 Cohort, a larger sample of workers turning 30, and includes detailed controls including school quality, parental background, and the underlying ability of the college attendee. The analysis focuses on participation in an employer-sponsored retirement plan and retirement assets as of age 30.
This paper found that:
- The estimated relationship between student debt and participating in a retirement plan – whether or not their employer offers one – is small and statistically insignificant, and we can rule out any large negative correlation.
- Contrary to expectations, individuals with a large loan balance who were offered a plan are more likely to accept it, though the estimated relationship is small.
- Some evidence indicates that bachelor’s degree-holders who have student loans have lower retirement assets at age 30, though the estimates are statistically insignificant, and retirement assets levels are unrelated to the size of their student loan balances.
The policy implications of this paper are:
- Though young workers’ balance sheets are clearly hurt by student debt, the preliminary results indicate that they do not substantially reduce retirement saving to compensate.
- This lack of a relationship between student loans and retirement plan saving suggests that the detrimental effect of student debt manifests itself either through reduced consumption or other reductions in net worth, such as credit card debt.
- Despite these findings, it will be worth watching future cohorts to determine whether a stronger relationship between student debt and retirement savings will emerge in the future, as those who built up even more debt move toward financial and economic maturity.

"What are the Effects of Doubling Up on Retirement Income and Assets?"
CRR WP 2016-10

DEIRDRE PFEIFFER, Arizona State University (ASU) - School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning
KATRIN B. ANACKER, George Mason University - School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs
BROOKS LOUTON, Arizona State University (ASU) - School of Criminology & Criminal Justice

The Great Recession has amplified the increase in socioeconomic instability and inequality in the United States. While much work has been conducted on retirement income and assets, not much work has been undertaken on seniors moving in with their adult children and grandchildren, possibly to save on housing costs. Utilizing Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) 1996, 2001, 2004, and 2008 data for seniors 65 and older, we conducted descriptive statistics and three types of models. First, we used discrete-time event history modeling to analyze the effect of changes in retirement income, assets, debt, and social welfare program participation between the current and previous interview on the propensity of moving into a multigenerational household, controlling for other factors. Then, we used logistic and linear regression to understand the effect of living in a multigenerational household on changes in seniors’ retirement income, assets, debt, and program participation, controlling for other factors. We also expanded our analyses to control for household type, i.e., a senior moving in with their adult children or grandchildren or vice versa, and for time, i.e., whether the recession impacts our results.
The paper found that:
- Experiencing economic distress increased the odds that a senior would move into a multigenerational household over the previous year or previous four months.
- Seniors living in multigenerational households were more economically disadvantaged than seniors not living in multigenerational households.
- Seniors living in multigenerational households were more likely to enroll in a social welfare program over the past four months than seniors not living in multigenerational households.
- The relationships between seniors’ multigenerational household formation and economic outcomes did not change much during the recession.
The policy implications of the findings are:
- Living in a multigenerational household may have a potentially destabilizing effect on seniors’ economic well-being.
- Policymakers may want to target financial education and counseling to seniors living in multigenerational households.

"Adequacy, Fairness and Sustainability of Pay-as-You-Go-Pension-Systems: Defined Benefit Versus Defined Contribution"

JENNIFER ALONSO-GARCÍA, University of New South Wales (UNSW) - ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR)
MARÍA EL CARMEN BOADO-PENAS, University of Liverpool
PIERRE DEVOLDER, Catholic University of Louvain

There are three main challenges facing public pension systems. First, pension systems need to provide an adequate income for pensioners in the retirement phase. Second, participants wish a fair level of benefits in relation to the contributions paid. Last but no least, the pension system would need to be financially sustainable in the long run. In this paper, we analyse defined benefit versus defined contribution schemes in terms of adequacy, fairness and sustainability jointly. Also, risk sharing mechanisms, that involve changes in the key variables of the system, are designed to restore the financial sustainability at the same time that we study their consequences on the adequacy and fairness of the system.

"Initiate Deficits to Strengthen Public Finances: The Role of Private Pensions"

ALES S. BERK, University of Ljubljana - Faculty of Economics
JOZE SAMBT, University of Ljubljana - Faculty of Economics

In this paper we use our comprehensive pension system model calibrated to the real demographic, employment and retirement data, measure transition costs of implementing mandatory private second-pillar into the pension landscape and consider fiscal sustainability of pension system. We report sensitivity to the most relevant parameters both within a second-pillar and a pay-as-you-go, and argue that fiscal sustainability and improved (higher) accrual rates are not incompatible policy goals if only pension reform is properly designed and implemented early enough. The introduction of a private pension pillar has to be implemented in times when public debt burden remains manageable and has to be accompanied by further parametric reform within the pay-as-you-go system that keeps the system fiscaly stable, as well as that further improves net accrual rates. We call for reconsideration of pension policy reversals that happened after 2008 in quite some coutries.

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Monday, October 3, 2016

Upcoming event: “Disability and Retirement Security: New Research and Next Steps”

Disability and Retirement Security: New Research and Next Steps

WHEN: Thursday, October 20, 2016 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ET

WHERE: Bipartisan Policy Center, 1225 Eye St. NW, Suite 1000, Washington, DC, 20005


Experiencing a disability is a life-changing event, affecting work, family, and finances, but too little attention has been given to the impact of disability on retirement security. The ongoing transition to defined contribution retirement plans has increased the urgency of this challenge. While many defined benefit pensions include features to address disability risk, these provisions are rare in 401(k) plans because they were not allowed until a recent regulatory change.

Join us on October 20 as we discuss new research from the Employee Benefit Research Institute on how retirement security is affected by disability, and what can be done to address this risk.

Keynote remarks by:

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)

Opening remarks by:

Rick McKenney
President and Chief Executive Officer, Unum Group


Winthrop Cashdollar
Executive Director, Product Policy, America’s Health Insurance Plans

Lisa Ekman
Director of Government Affairs, National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives

Joshua Gotbaum
Guest Scholar, Economic Studies, Brookings Institution

Andrew Peterson
Senior Staff Fellow, Retirement Systems, Society of Actuaries

Jack VanDerhei
Research Director, Employee Benefit Research Institute

Aliya Wong
Executive Director, Retirement Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


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