The Effects of the Great Recession on the Retirement Security of Older Workers

March 2013

Alicia H. Munnell and Matthew S. Rutledge, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

Download '2013-03-npc-working-paper.pdf'.


The Great Recession had a profound effect on the retirement security of older Americans, and the slow recovery from the downturn will have a lasting impact on their quality of life. The nature of today’s retirement system left older households exposed to the collapse in the equity and housing markets, and induced many to plan for a later retirement. Instead, more late-career workers experienced job loss than in previous recessions, often with long jobless spells, encouraging record numbers of early Social Security retirement claims and disability applications. Going forward, workers who lost a job can expect lower earnings and more instability, and potentially poorer health. Even households that avoided job loss will have less money available for spending in retirement due to low interest rates and reduced home values. These findings emphasize the importance of Social Security as income insurance and the need for a more robust retirement income system.

Employment, Unemployment, and the Labor Market