The first wave of baby boomers(born between 1946 and 1964) will become eligible for Social Security early retirement benefits in 2008. In addition to concerns about how the boomers' retirement will strain the nation's retirement and health systems, concerns also have been raised about the possibility for boomers to sell off large amounts of financial assets in retirement, with relatively fewer younger U.S. workers available to purchase these assets. Some have suggested that such a sell-off could precipitate a market "meltdown," a sharp and sudden decline in asset prices, or reduce long-term rates of return. In view of such concerns, we have examined (1) whether the retirement of the baby boomers is likely to precipitate a dramatic drop in financial asset prices; (2) what researchers and financial industry participants expect the effect of the boomer retirement to have on financial markets; and (3) what role rates of return will play in providing retirement income in the future. We have prepared this report under the Comptroller General's authority to conduct evaluations on his own initiative as part of the continued effort to assist Congress in addressing these issues.
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