Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login

Choice, Chance, and Wealth Dispersion at Retirement

In: Aging Issues in the United States and Japan

Contents:

Author Info

  • Steven F. Venti
  • David A. Wise

Abstract

People earn just enough to get by' is a phrase often used to explain the low personal saving rate in the United States. The implicit presumption is that households simply do not earn enough to pay for current needs' and to save. We show in this paper that at all levels of lifetime earnings there is an enormous dispersion in the accumulated wealth of families approaching retirement. It is not only households with low incomes that save little; a significant proportion of high income households also saves little. And, a substantial proportion of low income households save a great deal. We then consider the extent to which differences in household lifetime financial resources explain the wide dispersion in wealth, given lifetime earnings. We find that very little of this dispersion can be explained by chance differences in individual circumstances largely outside the control of individuals' that might limit the resources from which saving might plausibly be made. We also consider how much of the dispersion in wealth might be accounted for by different investment choices of savers some more risky, some less risky given lifetime earnings. We find that investment choice is not a major determinant of the dispersion in asset accumulation. It matters about as much as chance events that limit the available resources of households with the same lifetime earnings. We conclude that the bulk of the dispersion must be attributed to differences to in the amount that households choose to save. The differences in saving choices among households with similar lifetime earnings lead to vastly different levels of asset accumulation by the time retirement age approaches.

(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL: http://www.nber.org/chapters/c10284.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Bibliographic Info

as in new window

This chapter was published in:

  • Seiritsu Ogura & Toshiaki Tachibanaki & David A. Wise, 2001. "Aging Issues in the United States and Japan," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number ogur01-1, October.
    This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 10284.

    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:10284

    Contact details of provider:
    Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Email:
    Web page: http://www.nber.org
    More information through EDIRC

    Related research

    Keywords:

    Other versions of this item:

    References

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
    as in new window
    1. Attanasio, Orazio P, et al, 1999. "Humps and Bumps in Lifetime Consumption," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 17(1), pages 22-35, January.
    2. R. Glenn Hubbard & Jonathan Skinner & Stephen P. Zeldes, 1995. "Precautionary Saving and Social Insurance," NBER Working Papers 4884, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Smith, James D., 1980. "Modeling the Distribution and Intergenerational Transmission of Wealth," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 0, number 9780226764542, Winter.
    4. Milton Friedman, 1953. "Choice, Chance, and the Personal Distribution of Income," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61, pages 277.
    5. F. Thomas Juster & James P. Smith & Frank Stafford, 2004. "The Measurement and Structure of Household Wealth," Labor and Demography 0402009, EconWPA.
    6. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1999. "Implications of Rising Personal Retirement Saving," NBER Working Papers 6295, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Olivia S. Mitchell & Jan Olson & Thomas Steinmeier, . "Construction of the Earnings and Benefits File (EBF) for Use with the Health and Retirement Survey," Pension Research Council Working Papers 98-19, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
    8. Shefrin, Hersh M & Thaler, Richard H, 1988. "The Behavioral Life-Cycle Hypothesis," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 26(4), pages 609-43, October.
    9. John B. Shoven & David A. Wise, 1998. "The Taxation of Pensions: A Shelter Can Become a Trap," NBER Chapters, in: Frontiers in the Economics of Aging, pages 173-212 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Smith, J.P., 1996. "Racial and Ethnic Differences in Wealth in the Health and Retirement Study," Papers 96-12, RAND - Reprint Series.
    11. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1987. "Have IRAs Increased U.S. Saving?: Evidence from Consumer Expenditure Surveys," NBER Working Papers 2217, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. James D. Smith, 1980. "Modeling the Distribution and Intergenerational Transmission of Wealth," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number smit80-1, October.
    13. Andrew A. Samwick, 1997. "Discount Rate Heterogeneity and Social Security Reform," NBER Working Papers 6219, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Davies, James B, 1982. "The Relative Impact of Inheritance and Other Factors on Economic Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 97(3), pages 471-98, August.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as in new window

    Cited by:
    This item has more than 25 citations. To prevent cluttering this page, these citations are listed on a separate page.

    Lists

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:10284. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ().

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.