Whether most Americans will have enough saved to retire comfortably has become a matter of great debate. But some may be in better shape than they think.
Most predictions aren't in consumers' favor. In a recent Legg Mason study, only 40 percent of the 458 investors surveyed said they are "very confident" in their ability to retire—perhaps in part because they think they'll need to have at least $2.5 million saved, versus the often-talked-about $1 million. Another recent survey, from TIAA_CREF, found that 46 percent of Americans are worried about running out of money in retirement.
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Still, there are some conflicting reports. A study released Tuesday from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College looked at whether as many as 35 percent of households, or as few as 12 percent might be falling short, depending on the calculation method. Researchers assessed 2004 data for households in their 50s—folks who would be just about ready to retire now, or have recently done so.
There's a catch. That rosier 12 percent relies on two big assumptions: Households will spend less when their children leave home, and household spending will decline in retirement. "If households accept declining consumption in retirement, they need less wealth to maintain their living standard," according to the paper. "If households consume less once their kids leave home, they have a more modest target to replace and they save more between the emptying of the nest and retirement."