A new analysis finds that nearly every state falls short in key areas measuring retirement readiness. Live webcast to review findings at retirement policy conference.



All States Fall Short; California, Florida, and Mississippi Rank Lowest and Wyoming Ranks Highest

Live Webcast Today to Review Findings During Retirement Policy Conference

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 4, 2014 – A new analysis finds that nearly every state falls short in key areas that measure retirement readiness. The Financial Security Scorecard: A State-by-State Analysis of Economic Pressures Facing Future Retirees gauges the relative performance of the fifty states and the District of Columbia in three key areas: anticipated retirement income; major retirement costs like housing and healthcare; and labor market conditions for older workers.

The study is designed to serve as a tool for policymakers to help identify potential areas of focus for state-based policy interventions to improve Americans’ retirement prospects. The full study is available here.

The findings will be presented today at the National Institute on Retirement Security’s fifth annual retirement policy conference, On the Money? A Close Up Look at Americans’ Retirement Prospects. Event speakers include:

Media interested in attending the event can register here. The conference program is available here. Watch the event live here.

“We conducted this study to drill deeper and understand better the scope of the nation’s retirement crisis on a state basis,” said Diane Oakley, NIRS executive director. “Now, policymakers can identify the most urgent priorities for addressing the looming financial security challenges of the aging populations in their state.”

“The retirement savings shortfall has become increasingly important at the state level because policymakers understand that it can have profound impacts on strained state budgets. We know that the largest source of retirement income for most Americans is Social Security, but this federal program typically provides only a fraction of what most people need to be self-sufficient. The good news is that some states already are considering policies to reduce future retiree poverty by encouraging workers to save today,” Oakley said.

The study’s key findings are as follows:

1. There is room for improvement in all states in one or more measures of financial security for future retirees.

  • No state ranks in the top group of states on all eight scorecard variables.
  • For every state, at least one indicator of potential retirement income is lower, one measure of retiree costs is higher or one labor market variable is worse than in at least one other state.
  • The data underlying the scorecard indicate key areas of trouble that affect most or all states. For instance, the highest ranking state for workplace retirement plan participation in 2012 had only 54 percent of private employees participating in a pension or 401(k). In addition, the number of states with more than 30 percent of older households experiencing a housing cost burden increased from 14 in 2000 to 31 in 2012.

2. All three potential sources of economic insecurity for future retirees deserve policy attention.  

  • Scorecard measures on retirement income, retiree costs and labor markets for older workers are substantially correlated with states’ overall scores.
  • States that perform significantly worse than other states on any one of the three key dimensions of economic insecurity typically do not make up lost ground with better performance on the other dimensions.

3. Improving the future financial security of an aging workforce requires ensuring good employment options for older workers.

  • Older workers suffered more from higher unemployment and lower wages in lower-ranked states in 2012 than they did in earlier years.
  • This effect may dissipate as the labor market for older workers improves in all states alongside a growing economy.
  • Short-term disruptions such as recessions can have serious longer-term consequences for the economic security of an aging population that has limited time to accumulate additional resources for retirement.

The report is authored by Christian E. Weller, professor of public policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston; Nari Rhee, manager of research at the National Institute on Retirement Security and Carolyn Arcand, doctoral candidate at the University of Massachusetts Boston.


The National Institute on Retirement Security is a non-profit organization established to contribute to informed policymaking by fostering a deep understanding of the value of retirement security to employees, employers, and the economy through national research and education programs. Located in Washington, D.C., NIRS has a diverse membership of organizations interested in retirement including financial services firms, employee benefit plans, trade associations, and other retirement service providers. Find more information at www.nirsonline.org and follow us at @nirsonline.

Contact: Kelly Kenneally at kkenneally at nirsonline.org