Retirement Readiness in Uncertain Times and Implications of Early Financial Education Highlighted in New Behavioral Finance Research

NEW YORK (February 3, 2022) – The TIAA Institute and the Pension Research Council (PRC) of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School published three new reports focused on the factors and biases that impact people’s financial decisions. The research will be shared at a virtual Fellows Symposium on February 4th titled “Retirement readiness in uncertain times: Harnessing behavioral biases to mitigate risks.”

The new reports—Americans’ Debt Burden, Retirement Readiness, and the Pandemic, The Early Impacts of Coronavirus Pandemic on Americans’ Economic Security, and Does Financial Education in High School Affect Retirement Savings in Adulthood?, add to the TIAA Institute’s growing body of research on the dynamics of individual financial decision-making. The symposium also included the previously released report Overpaying and Undersaving: Correlated Mistakes in Retirement Saving and Health Insurance Choices.

“These four reports, produced by industry scholars, explore cognitive biases and related factors that affect real-world financial decisions and retirement outcomes,” said David P. Richardson, head of the TIAA Institute. “The insights they provide can be enormously useful to policymakers, plan sponsors and others focused on enhancing Americans’ financial security.”

“Through our long-standing partnership with the TIAA Institute, we continue to produce timely, relevant research that highlights how economic uncertainty impacts financial behaviors and long-term savings,” said Olivia S. Mitchell, director of the Pension Research Council. “These reports examine the steep challenges many Americans face today in navigating financial obstacles through the pandemic and will serve as benchmarks for future studies post-pandemic.”

The symposium featured presentations from the lead authors of each study (described below). For more information on the symposium and research reports, click here.

  1. Americans’ Debt Burden, Retirement Readiness, and the Pandemic
    Andrea Hasler and Annamaria Lusardi (The George Washington University), Olivia S. Mitchell (University of Pennsylvania)
    This research found that one in three American adults views themselves as debt constrained, both prior to and during the pandemic, with the percentage even higher among vulnerable subgroups of the population. Additionally, those most constrained by debt were also the most motivated to boost their financial literacy. Read the full report here.
  2. The Early Impacts of Coronavirus Pandemic on Americans’ Economic Security
    Marco Angrisani, Jeremy Burke, and Arie Kapteyn (University of Southern California, Center for Economic and Social Research)
    This research found that improved financial stability from expanded unemployment benefits combined with Economic Impact Payments during the onset of the pandemic resulted in little difference in retirement savings behavior during this same period, suggesting early effects of improved financial stability may not translate into improved retirement outcomes in the future. Read the full report here.
  3. Does Financial Education in High School Affect Retirement Savings in Adulthood?
    Melody Harvey (University of Wisconsin–Madison) and Carly Urban (Montana State University and IZA)
    This research found that financial education in high school can improve subsequent outcomes in adulthood related to credit and debt, but it has little impact on the likelihood of saving for retirement. Read the full report here.
  4. Overpaying and Undersaving: Correlated Mistakes in Retirement Saving and Health Insurance Choice
    Leora Friedberg and Adam Leive (University of Virginia)
    Amid continued uncertainty caused by the pandemic, this study underscores the importance of making wise choices concerning health and retirement benefits. The research found that a large majority of employees spend too much on their health insurance plans, while about one-third of employees forgo matching contributions in their retirement plans, leaving money on the table and weakening their financial security. Read the full report, originally released in September 2020, here.

Press contact: TIAA Media Team, 888-200-4062,

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TIAA is a leading provider of secure retirements and outcome-focused
investment solutions to millions of people and thousands of institutions. It is the
#1 not-for-profit retirement market provider, paid more than 1 $3.6 billion to
retired clients in 2020 and has $1.3 trillion in assets under management (as of