The US Retirement Crisis: Essential Reading and Resources

Categories: Behavioral Finance, Private Wealth Management
The US Retirement Crisis: Essential Reading and Resources

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.

[Editor’s note: This list was updated 7 August 2013 to include additional suggestions from readers and Stephen Horan, CFA, CIPM.]


Blogs to Bookmark and Twitter Handles to Follow

Research Papers and Articles


Blog Posts


Other Resources

What have we missed? What do you consider essential reading? Are there tools or resources that you consider indispensable? Let us know by commenting in the field below.

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.

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15 comments on “The US Retirement Crisis: Essential Reading and Resources

  1. Pingback: The U.S. Retirement Crisis: Essential Reading and Resources | Above the Market
  2. On Pension Fund Management I would suggest three books:
    Ambachtsheer and Ezra “Pension Fund Excellence”
    Ambachtsheer “Pension Revolution”
    van Nunen “Fiduciary Management”

  3. Michael Nuschke said:

    Great article!
    As a long-time retirement advisor, I too see an impending retirement crisis that factors in radical life extension and technological creative-destruction. The implications are so great that I had to change my thinking about what is good retirement advice.

    Retirement planners are really futurists – who have not considered the future! in order to further this important discussion, I authored a free report called “The End of Retirement as We Know It”
    Download link is

  4. Louise Schroeder said:

    Fantastic list of resources – greatly appreciate your effort in compiling this list! Another very interesting resource that I’ve found is a report issued by the International Monetary Fund dated April 2012, and titled “Global Financial Stability Report – the Quest for Lasting Stability”. In particular, Chapter 3, which discusses “Safe Assets: Financial System Cornerstone?”, and Chapter 4, which discusses “The Financial Impact of Longevity Risk” are of interest for anyone concerned about the impact of longevity on retirement. A copy of this report can be downloaded at

  5. Edrich Jansen said:

    Thank you for the informative article, such a relative topic. And thank you for the references. Do you have any journal articles showing the relationship between financial risk tolerance and adequate provision towards retirement?

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  9. Hi Lauren Foster, I read your post “Evidence from Variable Annuities”(Financial Analysts Journal). Thanks to sharing informative link. Do you have any journal articles showing the retirement?.

    Thanks !!!

  10. Those are seniors now, not the seniors of the future. Retirees that benefited from a stock market boom of the late 80s and 90s, guaranteed pensions, and health care benefits don’t exist going forward. At some point I expect “retirement” will be another entitlement program.

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