The U.S. Retirement Crisis: Essential Reading And Resources

by: CFA Institute Contributors

By Lauren Foster

In May, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above the 15,000 milestone for the first time, the Washington Post ran a story with a seemingly innocuous question: “The Dow’s cracked 15,000 and the S&P is at record highs, so it’s time to pop open the champagne and celebrate, right?

The sober response: No.

“We face a jobs crisis, a schools crisis, an immigration crisis, an infrastructure crisis, an inequality crisis and a college affordability crisis (just to name some current favorites),” wrote Matt Miller. “But the sleeper crisis, the Next Big Shoe To Drop, is the retirement crisis.”

Whether or not we call it a crisis, the situation is dire.

On the same day the Dow hit its new high (7 May 2013), Larry Fink, chief executive of BlackRock (BLK), took to the podium at New York University Stern School of Business to have a conversation with the students about, as he put it, the subject of old age.

He told those gathered there that day that longer life spans and underfunded retirement plans are the defining challenge of our age, and went so far as to recommend that the US consider making retirement savings mandatory. (Tadas Viskanta, founder and editor of Abnormal Returns, weighs in with a blog post: “Does the US Need a Mandatory Retirement Savings Program?“)

To get a sense of the scope of the issue, consider this: $1 million isn’t what it used to be, especially when coupled with rising life expectancies — the average 65-year-old woman today can be expected to live to 86, a man to 84 — and the fact that most people have undersaved for retirement and will need to rely on Social Security.

“We’re facing a crisis right now, and it’s going to get worse,” Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, told the New York Times. “Most people haven’t saved nearly enough, not even people who have put away $1 million.” (See full article: “For Retirees, a Million-Dollar Illusion.”)

Given the stakes, financial advisors have an increasingly important role to play in building sustainable retirement income strategies for their clients. But as is the case with most investment advice, there is no one-size-fits-all approach: Is the 4% safe withdrawal rate still valid? What returns are safe withdrawal rates really based on? What is the appropriate mix of stocks and bonds in retirement? Is it beneficial to delay the receipt of Social Security retirement benefits? How does one build a retirement income strategy that will last?

With so much information out there, it can be tough to know where to turn for the best thinking on retirement planning. (A search for “retirement” on Amazon yielded nearly 19,000 results.)

To help me sort through the noise, I contacted four of the smartest minds out there:

I put a simple question to each of them: What do you consider the most essential reading in the area of retirement, be it books, research papers, articles, or blog posts?

Here, in no particular order, is what they had to say:


Research Papers and Articles

Blog Posts

Blogs to Bookmark and Twitter Handles to Follow

Other Resources

Disclaimer: Please note that the content of this site should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute.