Research Reports, Surveys And Other Resources

Required Savings Rates Today  This paper by Morningstar’s David Blanchett and American College of Financial Services’ Michael Finke and Wade Pfau looks at the effect low investment returns and longer life spans have on the percentage of income you must save for retirement.

Global Fixed Income: Consideration for Investors  This Vanguard report weighs the  benefits of diversifying a U.S. portfolio with currency-hedged international bonds.

EBRI IRA and EBRI 401(k) Data These two Employee Benefit Research Institue reports give detailed stats on account balances and allocation of assets in IRAs and 401(k)s.

 

Society of Actuaries’ Longevity Report  Among other things, this 2011 report shows that many people understimate how long they might live, often by five or more years.

Nerdwallet Millennial Savings Study  If investment returns come in below historical averages, Millennials may have to save 22% of income a year for retirement.

GAO Report on 401(k) Plans  This August 2016 Government Accountability Officereport examines retirement income options in 401(k)s and recommends way to improve them.

Vanguard: Elections and The Market  This study looks at volatility during presidential elections and compares average returns in Democrat and Republican administrations.

BlackRock 2016 Investor Pulse Survey/Edward Jones 2016 Election Survey These surveys examine how the presidential election has affected investors’ attitudes about the markets and investing.

401(k) Plan Asset Allocation, Account Balances and Loan Activity: This Employee Benefit Research Institute report details how 401(k) participants invest their savings.

Giving In Retirement: America’s Longevity Bonus  This Merrill Lynch study looks at the various ways giving back financially or through volunteering can enhance retirees’ lives.

Consumer Expenditures Survey  This Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows how much  U.S. households are spending on food, housing, transportation, health care and other expenses.

The Case For Low-Cost Index Investing  This Vanguard research paper explains why low-cost index funds tend to outperform their actively managed counterparts.

2016 Retirement Readiness Survey  Among other things, This annual survey from Pentergra Retirement Services asked retirees what advice they would give to young savers.

How Can We Realize The Value That Annuities Offer In a 401(k) World?  This research brief from the Boston College Center for Retirement Research discusses how making annuities a default option in 401(k)s may spur more people to annuitize.

Employee Financial Literacy And Retirement Plan Behavior  This study from The Wharton School’s Pension Research Council demonstrates that employees who completed a financial education course were more likely to better save and invest for retirement.

NerdWallet’s 2015 Survey on Household Debt  Facts and figures on what Americans owe.

America Saves Personal Savings Index  Released three times a year, this index measures Americans’ interest, effort and effectiveness at saving for retirement and other goals.

How America Saves: 2016  Vanguard’s annual survey of the 401(k) and other defined-contribution plans it oversees provides a detailed breakdown of how much 401(k) participants save, how they invest those contributions and which features (auto-enroll, automatic rebalancing, etc.) plans offer.

EBRI Brief: Trends in Retirement Satisfaction  This 16-page report examines, among other things, trends in retire’s satisfatction with their lives in retirement

Allianz Life Gift of Time Study  Part of Allianz’s Longevity Project, the Gift of Time looks at how Americans are rethinking major life choices they’ve made in the past and what paths they may take in the future given today’s longer life spans.

2016 U.S. Trust Insights On Wealth And Worth  This survey of 684 high net worth individuals explores, among other things, how the affluent invest and how the rich acquired their wealth.

Why Investors May Need To Lower Their Sights  This McKinsey & Company study outlines reasons why annual investment returns for the next 20 years may be far lower—as much as four percentage points a year less in the case of U.S. stocks—than they have been the past 30 years.

Market Briefing: S&P 500 Bull & Bear Markets And Corrections  This compendium from Yardeni Research shows the length and depth of declines of all bear markets (declines of 20% or better) and corrections (losses between 10% and 20%) from 1929 to mid-January 2016.

2016 Retirement Confidence Survey  This annual study from the Employee Benefit Research Institute explores in exhaustive detail, among other things, the saving and spending habits of workers and retirees; how confident workers and retirees feel about their prospects for a secure retirement; and, the extent to which their confidence is warranted.

Solving The Annuity Puzzle: The Role of Mortality Salience In Retirement Savings Decumulation Decisions  This 2015 research paper finds that many people are reluctant to even think about buying an annuity because doing so triggers death-related thoughts and forces them to confront the inevitability of their own death.

Determining Withdrawal Rates Using Historical Data  This seminal 1994 study from financial planner William Bengen is the basis for what’s become known as the 4% rule. It looks at how different withdrawal rates hold up during retirement based on historical returns for stocks and bonds. It essentially concludes that for a 30-year retirement, an initial withdrawal of 4% subsequently adjusted for inflation “should be safe.”

The Market For Financial Adviser Misconduct This study by three business-school professors looks at the prevalence of financial adviser misconduct between 2005 and 2015.

The National Financial Educators Council’s National Financial Literacy Test  This 30-question test attempts to measures participants’ ability to earn, save and grow their money.

Standard & Poor’s Global Financial Literacy Survey  This survey from Standard & Poor’s and Gallup tests the knowledge of 150,000 adults in 148 countries in basic numeracy and concepts like inflation and compounding.

Investment Returns: Defined Benefit Vs. Defined Contribution Plans  The Boston College Center for Retirement Research compares the investment performance of pension plans and 401(k)-type defined contribution plans, finding that higher fees are the main reason 401(k) and similar plans tend to underperform their defined-benefit counterparts.

Financial Engine’s Target-Date Retirement Fund Report  This research from investment advisory firm Financial Engines discusses, among other things, the various ways that individual investors misuse target-date retirement funds.

Willis Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitudes Survey  This survey of some 30,000 employees in 19 countries (including more than 5,000 in the U.S.) examines, among other things, how confident workers feel that they’ll have enough resources to support them throughout retirement.

Buffett’s Asset Allocation Advice: Take It…With A Twist  In this paper IESE Business School finance professor explores how Warren Buffett’s recommended portfolio of 90% S&P 500 index fund and 10% short-term government bond fund would have held up in each of the 86 overlapping 30-year periods from 1900 through 2014 (1900-1929, 1901-1930…1985-2014). He concludes that such a porfolio would have had a failure rate of less than 2.5% and that investors could experience even better results with a couple of simple tweaks.

Protecting Senior Investors: Report of Examination of Securities Firms Providing “Free Lunch” Sales Seminars  Issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission, North American Securities Regulators and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, this report concludes that free-lunch seminars focus more on sales than education and often make exaggerated or misleading claims.

Inside The Mind of Plan Participants  This survey by AllianceBernstein of more than 1,000 participants in 401(k) and similar plans examines employees’ attitudes about retirement and reports how employees fared on an eight-question financial literacy test. Only 12% answered all the questions correctly.

Perspectives on Retirement: Why Young Investors Should Start Saving Early and Invest In Equities  This Prudential Investments white paper outlines the need for Millennials to begin saving for retirement as early as possible and to tilt their retirement portfolios toward stocks.

Financial Literacy and Retirement Preparedness Among other things, this 2014 study by Prudential Investments explores the retirement readiness of various segments of the U.S. population and notes that Millennials expect to retire at age 67 and believe they’ll need to have roughly $1 million saved by that age.

Reducing Retirement Risk With A Rising Equity Glide Path  This study by financial planner Michael Kitces and American College retirement income professor Wade Pfau shows how a portfolio that starts out with a conservative stocks-bonds mix at retirement and then becomes more aggressive may reduce the chance of retirees running through their savings too soon.

Change in Household Spending After Retirement  This Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) study takes an in-depth look at retiree spending in the first six years of retirement. The upshot: Contrary to the conventional wisdom that spending declines after one retirees, many retirees actually spend more money in the years immediately following retirement.

Generation Lost: Engaging Millennials With Retirement Saving  This study by BNY Mellon and students from the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School examines millennials’ attitudes toward investments and financial services and their understanding of the financial products available to them.

Women Versus Men in DC Plans  This Vanguard study compares the participation and savings rates, investing strategies and account balances of men vs. women in the 401(k) and similar retirement plans that Vanguard oversees.

Estimating The True Cost of Retirement  This study by Morningstar head of research David Blanchett examines how inflation-adjusted spending changes throughout retirement and shows how pre-retirement income ratios can vary significantly among retirees based on their particular financial circumstances.

TIAA-CREF Institute: How Retirees Manage Retirement Savings For Retirement Income  This survey examines the factors that influenced how TIAA-CREF participants with significant balances in tax-qualified retirement accounts decided to convert savings to income during retirement and looks in particular at the similarities and differences between those who put a portion of their savings into an annuity vs. those who didn’t.

Towers Watson: Annuities and Retirement Happiness  This 2012 report analyzes data from the University of Michigan’s bi-annual Health and Retirement Survey to compare retirement satisfaction among retirees who have annuitized income from a pension and/or annuity vs. those who don’t. The main finding is that retirees with annuitized income tend to have higher satisfaction scores throughout retirement than retirees who lack such income.

Annuities and Retirement Satisfaction This 2003 RAND study examines the pre-retirement expectations and post-retirement levels of satisfaction among retirees who receive annuity income versus those who don’t.

Aon Hewitt’s 2015 Financial Mindset Study  This study looks at the financial attitudes of behaviors of employees to answer such questions as how they decide how much to save, how they make investment decisions and how employers might better help them save and invest for retirement.

TIAA-CREF Investment Options Survey  This 2014 survey of more than 1,000 retirement-plan participants examines, among other things, how much people feel they know about the investment choices in their plan and whether they think the number of investment options is adequate.

Beyond Diversification: The Pervasive Problem of Excessive Fees and “Dominated Funds” In 401(k) Plans  This study by law school professors Ian Ayers and Quinn Curtis examines the effect of high fees in 401(k) investment menus.

Missing Out: How Much Employer Matching 401(k) Contributions Do Employees Leave On The Table?  This report by 401(k) advice firm Financial Engines estimates how much in employer matching funds 401(k) participants miss out on by failing to contribute enough to receive the full company match.

The Impact of the Recent Financial Crisis on 401(k) Account Balances  In this report, EBRI details how 401(k) investors in different age groups had their retirement savings allocated between stocks and bonds going into the 2008 financial crisis.

Growing Old In America: Expectations Vs. Reality  In this study of 2,969 adults, the Pew Research Center reports on the gap between expectations and reality in aspects of everyday life ranging from mental acuity and physical dexterity to sexual activity and financial security.

Hopes, Fears, And Reality  This MassMutual study examines the retirement expectations of pre-retirees and compares them to the actual experiences people have after they retire.

Work In Retirement: Myths and Motivations  A Merrill Lynch study that examines the new attitudes about working and retirement at a time when 47% of retirees say they have worked or plan to work in retirement and 72% of pre-retirees 50 and older say they plan to keep working after they retire.

The Real Cost of Fees  This report from Personal Capital examined the investing fees charged by 11 well-known investment firms and estimates the impact of those costs over the long term.

Dynamic Choice and Optimal Annuitization  This study published by Morningstar head of retirement research David Blanchett in the Journal of Retirement examines how much of their retirement savings retirees should convert to immediate annuities and when they should do so. The key finding is that  that retirees can take advantage of immediate annuities’ guaranteed lifetime income while investing less money upfront if they’re willing to adjust their spending and withdrawals from the rest of their savings throughout retirement based on how the financial markets are performing.

How Much Can Qualified Longevity Annuity Contracts (QLACs) Improve Retirement Security? This Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) study looks at how investing 401(k) funds in a QLAC affects the Retirement Readiness Rating of early Boomers, Late Boomers and GenXers.

Passive Hedge Funds  This August, 2015 study by two Australian academics studies the return characteristics of hedge fund portfolios and concludes that the majority of hedge fund managers do not generate their returns through superior managerial skill. The study also concludes that those hedge fund managers who try the most to deploy skill tend to underperform.

TIAA-CREF 2015 Lifetime Income Survey  This study examines consumer attitudes toward retirement income and what steps Americans are taking to convert their retirement nest eggs into sustainable income.

National Senior Investor Initiative  This 2015 joint report by the SEC and FINRA is based on examinations of 44 broker-dealers and focuses on, among other things, whether such firms properly supervised their representatives’ use of senior-specific certifications and professional designations.

Massachusetts Securities Division-LPL Financial Consent Order  This July 14, 2015 document outlines the Massachusetts regulator’s investigation into LPL reps’ use of senior designations and details the agreement which calls for LPL financial to pay a fine of $250,000.

2015 Ameriprise Retirement Triggers Report  This study polled 1,000 retirees age 60 to 73 with at least $100,000 in investable assets to examine the financial and emotional aspects of retirement preparation, including such questions as were these retirees ready for retirement, why did they choose this particular time to retire and do they feel good about their decision to retire?

23rd Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll  A comprehensive poll that, among other things, queries American just starting out in adulthood about their financial concerns and priorities as well as their expectations for their personal finances, education, employment and family life.

Annuities vs. Systematic Withdrawals by Mark Warshawsky  Don’t be put off by the actual title of this study (“Government Policy on Distribution Methods for Assets in Individual Accounts for Retirees: Life Income Annuities and Withdrawal Rules” or by its girth (48 pages that includes some heavy-duty number crunching). It’s worth a read, or at least a skim, because it makes the important point that many retirees may be better off devoting at least a portion of their assets to an immediate annuity rather than pegging their retirement security on the 4% rule or similar system of portfolio withdrawals.

AICPA Personal Financial Planning Trend Survey The American Institute of CPAs surveyed CPA financial planners in February, 2015 to gain insight on their clients’ main retirement concerns. The #1 worry: running out of money in retirement, followed by how much to withdraw from savings and health-care costs.

The Transamerica Center For Retirement Studies 2015 Survey of Workers This 16th annual survey of 4,550 workers takes an in-depth look at a broad spectrum of retirement issues, from how much workers are saving, how much money they think they’ll need to retire and what income sources they’ll rely on after retiring.

Estimating The True Cost of Retirement” Morningstar head of retirement research David Blanchett describes in this paper how inflation-adjusted spending in retirement typcially follows a “smile” pattern, with outlays falling initially, bottoming out and then climbing again later in life.

“Reducing Bonds? Proceed With Caution” This 2013 study from Vanguard explains why bonds still deserve a place as a bulwark against stock-market setbacks and warns against trying to outguess or time the bond market.

How Much Should People Save? This study from the Boston College Center for Retirement Research examines the question of what percentage of salary people must save each year to have a reasonable chance of maintaining their lifestyle after they retire. The upshot: A target of roughly 15% is reasonable.

“The 4% Rule Is Not Safe In A Low-Yield World” This paper by The American College’s Wade Pfau, Texas Tech’s Michael Finke and Morningstar’s David Blanchett looks at how lower expectations for investment returns affect how long your nest egg might last if you stick to the 4% rule. The conclusion: In an era of low returns, a 3% initial withdrawal rate may be more appropriate.

“Leveraging Behavioral Simulation to Enhance the 4% Rule” This Pricewaterhouse Coopers study looks at the shortcomings of the 4% rule for creating retirement income in an era of low returns and lengthening lifespans and seeks ways to adapt the rule’s basic concept based on the income needs and consumption patterns of different households.

“If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy, Then You Probably Aren’t Spending it Right.”  This paper in the Journal of Consumer Psychology by Elizabeth W. Dunn, Daniel T. Gilbert and Timothy D. Wilson examines the relationship between happiness and the way people spend money. The authors suggest that to increase happiness people should, among other things, buy many small pleasures than a few large ones, opt for more experiences and fewer material goods and pay close attention to the happiness of others.

401(k) Plan Asset Allocation, Account Balances et al 2014 This report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and Investment Company Institute (ICI) provides a detailed breakdown of 401(k) plan balances by age, income and tenure in the plan, as well as info about loan activity and how participants invest their 401(k) savings.

2014 Wells Fargo Middle-Class Retirement Study  Among other things, this study looks at where saving for retirement ranks among middle-class Americans’ financial priorities and examines their expectations for retirement vs. the reality of what they have saved.

TIAA-CREF Ready-to-Retire Survey  A survey of 1,000 adults designed, among other things, to find out what steps people nearing retirement wish they had taken to better prepare for retirement.

GAO Report: Challenges For Those Claiming Social Security Benefits Early This report of the U.S. Government Accountability Office looks at the circumstances of people who file for Social Security benefits early to understand why they do so even though taking benefits before full retirement age reduces monthly payments.

Consumer Expenditure Survey This survey by the U.S. Department of Labor provides information on the buying habits of American consumers, including breakdown of how much they spend on such categories as food, housing, transportation, insurance, health care, entertainment and other items.

Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. Annual Letter to Shareholders  A veritable treasure trove of avuncular investing wisdom, this link connects you to 38 (1977-2014) annual letters to shareholders from from Warren Buffett, aka the Wizard of Omaha.

Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. Annual and Quarterly Reports  Annual reports from 1995-2014 and quarterly reports from 1996-2014

Berkshire Hathaway: A Successful Conglomerate and Not Just a Mutual Fund! This paper describes how Berkshire Hathaway operates and examines the question of whether the company’s success stems more from Buffett’s prowess as a stock picker or a corporate manager skilled at acquiring a diverse group of operating businesses and deftly allocating capital.

Broken Values & Bottom Lines  Wealthfront CEO Adam Nash’s “personal reflection” in which he takes Schwab to task for the way it generates revenue from investors who use Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, the automated investing service that charges no advisory fee

Schwab Response to Broken Values & Bottom Lines Charles Schwab Co. responds to Wealthfront CEO’s “very misleading” blog post about Schwab Intelligent Portfolios and levels a couple of charges of its own.

Principal Group 2015 Millennial Research Study  A detailed look at the financial goals and saving and investing habits of millennials based on a 2014 online survey of full- and part-time workers aged 23 to 35

“Do U.S. Households Perceive Their Retirement Preparedness Realistically?” This study from researchers at the University of Alabama and Ohio State looks at data on full-time workers’ finances from the Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances to assess how many people are adequately preparing for retirement as well as how accurate workers are in their perceptions of their preparedness.