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Alicia Munnell: Married Couples Are in the Retirement Danger Zone

The prominent retirement researcher discusses Social Security's viability, the role of housing wealth, and a surprising new finding about married couple's retirement preparedness.

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Our guest on the podcast today is Alicia Munnell, the director of The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Alicia is a towering figure in the retirement research space. She and the team at the Center for Retirement Research produce articles and white papers on a wide variety of retirement-related topics, including Social Security, tax policy, retirement preparedness, and healthcare. Prior to joining Boston College in 1997, Alicia was a member of the president’s council of economic advisors and assistant secretary of the Treasury for economic policy. Previously, she spent 20 years at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, where she became senior vice president and director of research in 1984. Alicia has written scores of articles and authored and edited many books over the years; most recently, she co-authored Falling Short: The Coming Retirement Crisis and What to Do About It.


Alicia Munnell bio
Alicia Munnell research archive
Center for Retirement Research at Boston College
Books by Alicia Munnell

Retirement Preparedness

Is There Really a Retirement-Savings Crisis?” by Anne Tergesen, The Wall Street Journal, April 23, 2017.

The Wealth of Households: An Analysis of the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finance,” Center for Economic and Policy Research, November 2017.

Women, Marriage, and the National Retirement Risk Index,” by Alicia H. Munnell, Wenliang Hou and Geoffrey T. Sanzenbacher, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, June 2019.

Exploring the Retirement Consumption Puzzle,” by David Blanchett, Journal of Financial Planning, May 2014.

David Blanchett: If You’re Retiring Now, You’re in a Pretty Rough Spot,” The Long View, Sept. 18, 2019.

The Extraordinary Happiness of Retirees,” by Steve Vernon, Global Coalition on Aging, May 16, 2016.

Defined-Contribution Plans

The Federal Government Should Fix the Pension Coverage Gap,” by Alicia H. Munnell, Marketwatch, June 6, 2018.

An Analysis of Retirement Models to Improve Portability and Coverage,” by Alicia H. Munnell, Anek Belbase, and Geoffrey T. Sanzenbacher, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, March 2018.

Are Americans Really Able to Manage Their 401(k) Plans?” by Alicia Munnell, NextAvenue, May 17, 2012.

401(k) Plan Fees: What Is Reasonable?” by Liam Pleven, The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 20, 2015.

A Safe Harbor for Annuities Could Help Retirement Savers,” by Aron Szapiro, Morningstar blog, Oct. 18, 2018.

State-Based Retirement Plans for the Private Sector,” Pension Rights Center.

Social Security

"Social Security’s Financial Outlook: The 2019 Update in Perspective," by Alicia H. Munnell, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, May 2019.

Status of the Social Security and Medicare Programs: A Summary of the 2019 Annual Reports, Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees.

Alicia Munnell: The Social Security Fix No One Wants,” by Jane Wollman Rusoff, ThinkAdvisor, Jan. 30, 2018.

The Implications of Social Security’s 'Missing Trust Fund',” by Alicia H. Munnell, Wenliang Hou, and Geoffrey T. Sanzenbacher, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, June 2019.

The Role of Home Equity in Retirement Planning

Retiree Housing Wealth: Battered but Still Significant,” by Alicia Munnell, MarketWatch, Feb. 4, 2015.

How Much Does Housing Affect Retirement Security? An NRRI Update,” by Alicia H. Munnell, Wenliang Hou, and Geoffrey T. Sanzenbacher, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, September 2015.

Can a Reverse Mortgage Help Save an Underfunded Retirement?” by Michelle Singletary, The Washington Post, July 2, 2018.

This Secret Tax Break Could Help You Save Thousands of Dollars a Year If You Own a Home,” by Sarah Max, Money, Aug. 27, 2018

Long-Term Care

Long-Term Care: How Big a Risk?” by Leora Friedberg, Wenliang Hou, Wei Sun, and Anthony Webb, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, November 2014.

Can Increasing the Long-Term Care Insurance Elimination Period Make Coverage Appealing Again?” by Michael Kitces, Nerd’s Eye View, Jan. 7, 2015.