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The tradeoff between mortgage prepayments and tax-deferred retirement savings

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  • Eugene Amromin
  • Jennifer Huang
  • Clemens Sialm

Abstract

We show that a significant number of households can perform a tax arbitrage by cutting back on their additional mortgage payments and increasing their contributions to tax- deferred accounts (TDA). Using data from the Survey of Consumer Finances, we show that about 38% of U.S. households that are accelerating their mortgage payments instead of saving in tax-deferred accounts are making the wrong choice. For these households, reallocating their savings can yield a mean benefit of 11 to 17 cents per dollar, depending on the choice of investment assets in the TDA. ; In the aggregate, these misallocated savings are costing U.S. households as much as 1.5 billion dollars per year. Finally, we show empirically that this inefficient behavior is unlikely to be driven by liquidity considerations or other constraints, and that self-reported debt aversion and risk aversion variables explain to some extent the preference for paying off debt obligations early and hence the propensity to forgo our proposed tax arbitrage.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in its series Working Paper Series with number WP-06-05.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhwp:wp-06-05

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Keywords: Mortgage loans ; Retirement income ; Taxation;

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Cited by:
  1. Karen E. Dynan & Donald L. Kohn, 2007. "The rise in U.S. household indebtedness: causes and consequences," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2007-37, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  2. Marekwica, Marcel & Schaefer, Alexander & Sebastian, Steffen, 2013. "Life cycle asset allocation in the presence of housing and tax-deferred investing," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 37(6), pages 1110-1125.
  3. Poterba, James M. & Sinai, Todd, 2011. "Revenue Costs And Incentive Effects Of The Mortgage Interest Deduction For Owner-Occupied Housing," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 64(2), pages 531-64, June.
  4. Gary V. Engelhardt & Anil Kumar, 2004. "Employer Matching and 401(k) Saving: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College 2004-18, Center for Retirement Research.
  5. John Y. Campbell, 2006. "Household Finance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 61(4), pages 1553-1604, 08.
  6. James Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte Madrian, 2008. "$100 Bills on the Sidewalk: Suboptimal Investment in 401(K) Plans," Yale School of Management Working Papers amz2519, Yale School of Management, revised 01 Jul 2009.
  7. Geng Li & Paul A. Smith, 2009. "New evidence on 401(k) borrowing and household balance sheets," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2009-19, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  8. Anthony Webb, 2009. "Should You Carry A Mortgage Into Retirement," Issues in Brief ib2009-9-15, Center for Retirement Research, revised Jul 2009.
  9. Fabio D'Orlando & Eleonora Sanfilippo, 2008. "Behavioral Foundations for the Keynesian Consumption Function," Working Papers 2008-05, Universita' di Cassino, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche.
  10. Gene Amromin & Jennifer Huang & Clemens Sialm & Edward Zhong, 2011. "Complex Mortgages," NBER Working Papers 17315, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Hyrum Smith & Michael Finke & Sandra Huston, 2012. "Financial Sophistication and Housing Leverage Among Older Households," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 33(3), pages 315-327, September.
  12. Karen E Dynan & Donald L Kohn, 2007. "The Rise in US Household Indebtedness: Causes and Consequences," RBA Annual Conference Volume, in: Christopher Kent & Jeremy Lawson (ed.), The Structure and Resilience of the Financial System Reserve Bank of Australia.
  13. Geng Li & Paul A. Smith, 2008. "Borrowing from yourself: 401(k) loans and household balance sheets," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2008-42, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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