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The Life-Cycle Personal Accounts Proposal for Social Security: A Review

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  • Robert J. Shiller

Abstract

The life-cycle accounts proposal for Social Security reform has been justified by its proponents using a number of different arguments, but these arguments generally involve the assumption of a high likelihood of good returns on the accounts. A simulation is undertaken to estimate the probability distribution of returns in the accounts based on long-term historical experience. U.S. stock market, bond market and money market data 1871-2004 are used for the analysis. Assuming that future returns behave like historical data, it is found that a baseline personal account portfolio after offset will be negative 32% of the time on the retirement date. The median internal rate of return in this case is 3.4 percent, just above the amount necessary for holders of the accounts to break even. However, the U.S. stock market has been unusually successful historically by world standards. It would be better if we adjust the historical data to reduce the assumed average stock market return for the simulation. When this is done so that the return matches the median stock market return of 15 countries 1900-2000 as reported by Dimson et al. [2002], the baseline personal account is found to be negative 71% of the time on the date of retirement and the median internal rate of return is 2.6 percent.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11300.

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Date of creation: May 2005
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Publication status: published as Shiller, Robert J. "Life-Cycle Personal Accounts Proposal For Social Security: An Evaluation Of President Bush's Proposal," Journal of Policy Modeling, 2006, v28(4,May), 427-444.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11300

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  1. 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.
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Cited by:
  1. Pfau, Wade Donald, 2007. "Reforming Social Security: Issues and Challenges for Personal Retirement Accounts," MPRA Paper 19034, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. James M. Poterba & Joshua Rauh & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2009. "Reducing Social Security PRA Risk at the Individual Level: Life-Cycle Funds and No-Loss Strategies," NBER Chapters, in: Social Security Policy in a Changing Environment, pages 255-292 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. James Poterba & Joshua Rauh & Steven Venti & David Wise, 2006. "Defined Contribution Plans, Defined Benefit Plans, and the Accumulation of Retirement Wealth," NBER Working Papers 12597, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. James Poterba & Joshua Rauh & Steven Venti & David Wise, 2006. "Lifecycle Asset Allocation Strategies and the Distribution of 401(k) Retirement Wealth," NBER Working Papers 11974, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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