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Discontinuities in Pension Benefit Formulas and the Spot Model of the Labor Market: Implications for Financial Economists

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  • James E. Pesando

Abstract

When analyzing tax and related issues, financial economists typically invoke the simplest and the most tractable model of the labor market. This is the spot model, in which the worker's cash wage plus accruing pension benefit must equal the value of the worker's marginal product in each and every period. This paper first identifies the discontinuities in a worker's cash wage that must occur under the spot model if the pension plan has typical"cliff" vesting and early retirement provisions. The paper then calculates the pension benefits actually accrued, at and around the dates of eligibility for these benefits, by members of five pension plans in Canada. Both exercises serve to discredit the spot model. The paper reviews the underfunding puzzle, the measurement of pension liabilities, and the recapture of surplus assets in overfunded plans in light of these findings.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1795.

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Date of creation: Jan 1986
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Publication status: published as Pesando, James E. "Discontinuties in Pension Benefit Formulas and the Spot Model of the Labor Market: Implications for Financial Economists," Economic Inquiry, Vol. XXV, No. 2, April 1987, pp. 215-238.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1795

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  1. J. Michael Harrison & William F. Sharpe, 1982. "Optimal Funding and Asset Allocation Rules for Defined-Benefit Pension Plans," NBER Working Papers 0935, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Martin Feldstein & Randall Morck, 1982. "Pension Funding Decisions, Interest Rate Assumptions and Share Prices," NBER Working Papers 0938, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. James L. Medoff & Katharine G. Abraham, 1981. "Are Those Paid More Really More Productive? The Case of Experience," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 16(2), pages 186-216.
  4. Pesando, James E, 1982. " Investment Risk, Bankruptcy Risk, and Pension Reform in Canada," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 37(3), pages 741-49, June.
  5. Jeremy I. Bulow, 1981. "Early Retirement Pension Benefits," NBER Working Papers 0654, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Zvi Bodie & John B. Shoven, 1983. "Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bodi83-1, octubre-d.
  7. Lazear, Edward P, 1981. "Agency, Earnings Profiles, Productivity, and Hours Restrictions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 606-20, September.
  8. Ippolito, Richard A, 1985. "The Economic Function of Underfunded Pension Plans," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(3), pages 611-51, October.
  9. Lazear, Edward P, 1979. "Why Is There Mandatory Retirement?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1261-84, December.
  10. Jeremy I. Bulow & Myron S. Scholes, 1982. "Who Owns the Assets in a Defined Benefit Pension Plan," NBER Working Papers 0924, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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