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Individual Financial Decisions in Retirement Saving Plans and the Provision of Resources for Retirement

In: Privatizing Social Security

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  • James M. Poterba
  • David A. Wise

Abstract

Proposals for mandatory private saving accounts differ in the degree of investment discretion that they provide to individual savers, and in their provisions for annuitization of accumulated assets. With respect to investment choices, some argue that individuals must be prevented from investing too conservatively, and earning low returns over their accumulation period, while others argue that individuals should be protected from recklessly investing their retirement assets. With respect to annuitization, there is concern that individuals might not choose annuities and would thereby expose themselves to a risk of outliving their assets in a privatized system. This paper draws on the existing experience with 401(k) plans and other defined contribution pension plans to provide evidence on each of these issues. We find that the share of 401(k) plan assets held in corporate equities has increased substantially in recent years. We are only able to provide limited evidence on participant asset management, since many 401(k) plans have limited options in this regard. We do find, however, that a participant's education and income levels are related to asset allocation decisions, with less educated and lower income participants less inclined to invest in equity securities. We also analyze a unique data base on TIAA-CREF participants and find several attributes of annuitization behavior that seem inconsistent with standard behavior in the lifecycle model.

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This chapter was published in:

  • Martin Feldstein, 1998. "Privatizing Social Security," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number feld98-1, July.
    This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 6254.

    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:6254

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    References

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    1. Poterba, J.M. & Venti, S.F. & Wise, D.A., 1992. "401(k) Plans and Tax-Deferred Savings," Working papers 92-14, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    2. 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.
    3. Poterba, James M & Venti, Steven F & Wise, David A, 1994. "Targeted Retirement Saving and the Net Worth of Elderly Americans," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 180-85, May.
    4. John Laitner & F. Thomas Juster, 1993. "New evidence on altruism: a study of TIAA-CREF retirees," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 86, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    5. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1993. "Do 401(k) Contributions Crowd Out Other Persoanl Saving?," NBER Working Papers 4391, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Benjamin M. Friedman & Mark Warshawsky, 1985. "The Cost of Annuities: Implications for Saving Behavior and Bequests," NBER Working Papers 1682, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Bodie, Zvi & Merton, Robert C. & Samuelson, William F., 1992. "Labor supply flexibility and portfolio choice in a life cycle model," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 16(3-4), pages 427-449.
    8. Martin Feldstein, 1996. "The Missing Piece in Policy Analysis: Social Security Reform," NBER Working Papers 5413, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Friedman, Benjamin M & Warshawsky, Mark J, 1990. "The Cost of Annuities: Implications for Saving Behavior and Bequests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 135-54, February.
    10. Peter Diamond, 2004. "Social Security," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 1-24, March.
    11. Salvador Valdés & Peter Diamond, . "Social Security Reforms in Chile," Documentos de Trabajo 161, Instituto de Economia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile..
    12. Richard P. Hinz & David D. McCarthy & John A. Turner, . "Are Women Conservative Investors? Gender Differences in Participant Directed Pension Investments," Pension Research Council Working Papers 96-17, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
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    Cited by:
    1. Stacey H. Chen, 2003. "Risk Aversion and College Attendance," Discussion Papers 03-03, University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Economics.
    2. Lee Lillard & Robert J. Willis, 2001. "Cognition and Wealth: The Importance of Probabilistic Thinking," Working Papers wp007, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    3. Papke, Leslie E., 2004. "Individual financial decisions in retirement saving plans: the role of participant-direction," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1-2), pages 39-61, January.
    4. Vittas, Dimitri, 1998. "Regulatory controversies of private pension funds," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1893, The World Bank.
    5. Preecha Swasdpeera & I.M. Pandey, 2012. "Determinants of personal saving: a study of salaried individuals in Thailand," Afro-Asian Journal of Finance and Accounting, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 3(1), pages 34-68.
    6. Poterba, James M. & Samwick, Andrew A., 2003. "Taxation and household portfolio composition: US evidence from the 1980s and 1990s," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 5-38, January.
    7. Srinivas, P.S. & Whitehouse, Edward & Yermo, Juan, 2000. "Regulating private pension funds’ structure, performance and investments: cross-country evidence," MPRA Paper 14753, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Jack Mintz & Michael Smart, 2000. "Tax-Exempt Investors and the Asset Allocation Puzzle," CESifo Working Paper Series 242, CESifo Group Munich.
    9. Charupat, Narat & Milevsky, Moshe A., 2002. "Optimal asset allocation in life annuities: a note," Insurance: Mathematics and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 199-209, April.
    10. J. Ph. & GAUDEMET, 2001. "The purchase of individual life-annuities: a description of the french institutional setting," Documents de Travail de la DESE - Working Papers of the DESE g2001-08, Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques, DESE.
    11. James M. Poterba, 2000. "Stock Market Wealth and Consumption," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(2), pages 99-118, Spring.
    12. Angus Deaton & Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Christina Paxson, 2000. "Social Security and Inequality over the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 7570, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Börsch-Supan, Axel, 2005. "Risiken im Lebenszyklus: Theorie und Evidenz," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 05-05, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim & Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.

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