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How are retirees different today?


To find out, TIAA-CREF is undertaking a national study to explore all dimensions of their lives.


Building on a similar study the firm conducted in the early 1980s, the new initiative will offer a rare 30-year opportunity to see how retirement has changed in the 21st century — and how it hasn't.


Nearly 4,000 respondents have been chosen at random among a pool of retirees, age 66 and older, who are drawing income from TIAA-CREF. Each will receive an in-depth, 20-page questionnaire. 


The 2015 survey will give people the opportunity to "tell their personal stories," sharing what they have learned and what they wish they'd known prior to retiring.


The response to the earlier study was voluminous enough to fill a book: "Voices of Experience." It explored everything from retirees' financial preparedness to how they spent their time, and included how the reality of retirement differed from their expectations.


"Voices of Experience" was distributed as a planning tool to TIAA-CREF participants approaching retirement through the 1980s.


Independent research firm GfK is administering the new study, ensuring the confidentiality of participants' responses. A recently completed pilot survey generated a response rate as high as 40% among certain segments.


The survey will remain open through late August.


Data from this study, complemented by the prior one, will inform and support TIAA-CREF's programs and activities to better meet the needs of people approaching retirement.