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Lifecycle Asset Allocation Strategies and the Distribution of 401(k) Retirement Wealth

In: Developments in the Economics of Aging

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  • James M. Poterba
  • Joshua Rauh
  • Steven F. Venti
  • David A. Wise

Abstract

This paper examines how different asset allocation strategies over the course of a worker's career affect the distribution of retirement wealth and the expected utility of wealth at retirement. It considers both rules that allocate a constant portfolio fraction to various assets at all ages, as well as "lifecycle" rules that vary the mix of portfolio assets as the worker ages. The analysis simulates retirement wealth using asset returns that are drawn from the historical return distribution. The results suggest that the distribution of retirement wealth associated with typical lifecycle investment strategies is similar to that from age-invariant asset allocation strategies that set the equity share of the portfolio equal to the average equity share in the lifecycle strategies. There is substantial variation across workers with different characteristics in the expected utility from following different asset allocation strategies. The expected utility associated with different 401(k) asset allocation strategies, and the ranking of these strategies, is very sensitive to three parameters: the expected return on corporate stock, the worker's relative risk aversion, and the amount of non-401(k) wealth that the worker will have available at retirement. At modest levels of risk aversion, or in the presence of substantial non-401(k) wealth at retirement, the historical pattern of stock and bond returns implies that the expected utility of an all-stock investment allocation rule is greater than that from any of the more conservative strategies. Higher risk aversion or lower expected returns on stocks raise the expected utility of following lifecycle strategies or other strategies that reduce equity exposure throughout the lifetime.

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

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This chapter was published in:

  • David A. Wise, 2009. "Developments in the Economics of Aging," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number wise09-1, October.
    This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 11308.

    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:11308

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    References

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    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.:
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    1. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2001. "Aging and Housing Equity: Another Look," NBER Working Papers 8608, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Alexander Michaelides & Francisco J. Gomes, 2005. "Optimal life cycle asset allocation : understanding the empirical evidence," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 193, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Merton, Robert C, 1969. "Lifetime Portfolio Selection under Uncertainty: The Continuous-Time Case," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 51(3), pages 247-57, August.
    4. Samuelson, Paul A, 1969. "Lifetime Portfolio Selection by Dynamic Stochastic Programming," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 51(3), pages 239-46, August.
    5. Gollier, Christian & Zeckhauser, Richard J, 2002. " Horizon Length and Portfolio Risk," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 24(3), pages 195-212, May.
    6. Martin Feldstein & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2001. "Social Security," NBER Working Papers 8451, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
      • Feldstein, Martin & Liebman, Jeffrey B., 2002. "Social security," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 32, pages 2245-2324 Elsevier.
    7. John Y. Campbell & João F. Cocco & Francisco J. Gomes & Pascal J. Maenhout, 2001. "Investing Retirement Wealth: A Life-Cycle Model," NBER Chapters, in: Risk Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform, pages 439-482 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Martin Feldstein, 2005. "Reducing the Risk of Investment-Based Social Security Reform," NBER Working Papers 11084, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Andrew A. Samwick & Jonathan Skinner, 2004. "How Will 401(k) Pension Plans Affect Retirement Income?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 329-343, March.
    10. Mehra, Rajnish & Prescott, Edward C., 1985. "The equity premium: A puzzle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 145-161, March.
    11. Campbell, John Y. & Viceira, Luis M., 2002. "Strategic Asset Allocation: Portfolio Choice for Long-Term Investors," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198296942.
    12. James M. Poterba & Andrew A. Samwick, 1997. "Household Portfolio Allocation Over the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 6185, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Christian Gollier, 2004. "The Economics of Risk and Time," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262572249, January.
    14. Zvi Bodie & Robert C. Merton & William F. Samuelson, 1992. "Labor Supply Flexibility and Portfolio Choice in a Life-Cycle Model," NBER Working Papers 3954, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. James M. Poterba & Joshua Rauh & Steven F. Venti, 2005. "Utility Evaluation of Risk in Retirement Saving Accounts," NBER Chapters, in: Analyses in the Economics of Aging, pages 13-58 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. João Cocco & Francisco Gomes & Pascal Maenhout, 1998. "Consumption and Portfolio Choice over the Life-Cycle," Center for Economic Studies - Discussion papers ces9805, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Centrum voor Economische Studiën.
    17. Gomes, Francisco J & Michaelides, Alexander, 2005. "Optimal Life-Cycle Asset Allocation: Understanding the Empirical Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 4853, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    18. Joao F. Cocco, 2005. "Consumption and Portfolio Choice over the Life Cycle," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 18(2), pages 491-533.
    19. Zvi Bodie & William Samuelson, 1989. "Labor Supply Flexibility and Portfolio Choice," NBER Working Papers 3043, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. James M. Poterba, 2003. "Employer Stock and 401(k) Plans," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 398-404, May.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:
    1. Anup K. Basu & Michael E. Drew, 2009. "The Appropriateness of Default Investment Options in Defined Contribution Plans: Australian Evidence," Discussion Papers in Finance finance:200903, Griffith University, Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics.
    2. James Poterba & Steven Venti & David A. Wise, 2007. "New Estimates of the Future Path of 401(k) Assets," NBER Working Papers 13083, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Andrew A. Samwick, 2007. "Changing Progressivity as a Means of Risk Protection in Investment-Based Social Security," NBER Working Papers 13059, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Zvi Bodie & J�r�me Detemple & Marcel Rindisbacher, 2009. "Life-Cycle Finance and the Design of Pension Plans," Annual Review of Financial Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 249-286, November.
    5. Robert J. Willis, 2010. "Comment on "The Rise of 401(k) Plans, Lifetime Earnings, and Wealth at Retirement"," NBER Chapters, in: Research Findings in the Economics of Aging, pages 304-309 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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