By some projections, boomers will need between $200,000 and $500,000 during retirement to pay for deductibles and expenses not covered by Medicare, including dental care, hearing aids and other treatment.
Social Security benefits won't go as far, either. In 2002, benefits replaced 39 percent of the average retirees salary, and that will decline to 28 percent in 2030, when the youngest boomers reach full retirement age, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
"When people retire today, their standard of living is more likely to fall compared with those who retired 30 years ago," says Johnson of the Urban Institute.
"Also, the process of retiring has become more complex," Johnson says. "It used to be people left their jobs and moved into full-time retirement. Now people are phasing in retirement, switching to part-time jobs, moving from full retirement back into the labor force. That's not something you saw nearly as much in 1980s."
Working longer to afford retirement
In 1985, just over 18 percent of people ages 65 to 69 were in the labor force. By 2010, the percentage of workers in that age group nearly doubled to 32 percent, says Sara Rix, a senior strategic policy adviser at AARP.
She predicts that the generation that came of age in the 1960s will embrace advances in technology, stay fit and healthy well into their later years, and won't likely compromise on how they want to live their lives in retirement.
"I don't see boomers scaling back or willing to do without the way their parents' generation did," Rix says. "They're going to continue working so they can ultimately afford the retirement they want."
Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.