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A new look at the wealth adequacy of older U.S. households

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  • David A. Love
  • Paul A. Smith
  • Lucy C. McNair

Abstract

We construct two measures of the current wealth adequacy of older U.S. households using the 1998--2006 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). The first is the ratio of "comprehensive wealth"--defined as net worth plus the expected value of future income streams--to the wealth that would be needed to generate expected poverty-line income in future years. By this measure, we find that the median older U.S. household is reasonably well situated, with a "poverty ratio" of about 3.9 in 2006. However, we find that about 18 percent of households have less wealth than would be needed to generate 150 percent of poverty-line income over their expected future lifetimes. Our second measure is the ratio of the annuitized value of comprehensive resources to pre-retirement earnings. This measure identifies a median "replacement rate" of about 105 percent, with about 13 percent of households experiencing replacement rates of less than 50 percent. Comparing the leading edge of the baby boomers in 2006 to households of the same age in 1998, we find that the baby boomers show slightly less wealth, in real terms, than their elders did, and single boomers show a bit higher incidence of "inadequacy" than did their elders. Nonetheless, the median single boomer appears to have adequate resources. Moreover, we find a rising age profile of annualized wealth, even within households over time and after controlling for other factors, suggesting that older households are not spending their wealth as quickly as their survival probabilities are falling.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2008-20.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2008-20

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Keywords: Retirement income ; Households - Economic aspects;

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References

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  1. Gustman, Alan L. & Steinmeier, Thomas L., 1999. "Effects of pensions on savings: analysis with data from the health and retirement study," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 271-324, June.
  2. Jeffrey R. Brown & James M. Poterba, 1999. "Joint Life Annuities and Annuity Demand by Married Couples," NBER Working Papers 7199, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Martin Browning & Annamaria Lusardi, 1995. "Household Saving: Micro Theories and Micro Facts," Department of Economics Working Papers 1995-02, McMaster University.
  4. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2006. "Baby Boomer Retirement Security: The Roles of Planning, Financial Literacy, and Housing Wealth," CeRP Working Papers 54, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
  5. Willaim G. Gale & Karen M. Pence, 2006. "Are Successive Generations Getting Wealthier, and If So, Why?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 37(1), pages 155-234.
  6. Michael Hurd & Susann Rohwedder, 2006. "Alternative Measures of Replacement Rates," Working Papers wp132, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  7. Robert Haveman & Karen Holden & Barbara Wolfe & Shane Sherlund, 2006. "Do Newly Retired Workers in the United States Have Sufficient Resources to Maintain Well-Being?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 44(2), pages 249-264, April.
  8. Robert Haveman & Karen Holden & Andrei Romanov & Barbara Wolfe, 2007. "Assessing the maintenance of savings sufficiency over the first decade of retirement," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 14(4), pages 481-502, August.
  9. Bernheim, B. Douglas, 1987. "The economic effects of social security : Toward a reconciliation of theory and measurement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 273-304, August.
  10. John Karl Scholz & Ananth Seshadri & Surachai Khitatrakun, 2006. "Are Americans Saving "Optimally" for Retirement?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(4), pages 607-643, August.
  11. Olivia S. Mitchell & James M. Poterba & Mark J. Warshawsky, . "New Evidence on the Money's Worth of Individual Annuities," Pension Research Council Working Papers 97-9, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  12. Shiller Robert J., 2006. "Long-Term Perspectives on the Current Boom in Home Prices," The Economists' Voice, De Gruyter, vol. 3(4), pages 1-11, March.
  13. Alicia H. Munnell & Mauricio Soto, 2006. "What Replacement Rates Do Households Actually Experience In Retirement?," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2005-10, Center for Retirement Research.
  14. Engen, Eric & Gale, William & Uccello, Cori, 1999. "The Adequacy of Household Saving," MPRA Paper 56442, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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Cited by:
  1. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2011. "Were They Prepared for Retirement? Financial Status at Advanced Ages in the HRS and AHEAD Cohorts," NBER Chapters, in: Investigations in the Economics of Aging, pages 21-69 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Barry Bosworth & Rosanna Smart, 2009. "The Wealth of Older Americans and the Sub-Prime Debacle The Wealth of Older Americans and the Sub-Prime Debacle," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2009-21, Center for Retirement Research, revised Nov 2009.
  3. Elsa Fornero & Annamaria Lusardi & Chiara Monticone, 2009. "Adequacy of Saving for Old Age in Europe," CeRP Working Papers 87, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
  4. Christian E. Weller, 2009. "Did Retirees Save Enough to Compensate for the Increase in Individual Risk Exposure?," Working Papers wp206, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

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