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The Economics of Bequests in Pensions and Social Security

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  • Martin Feldstein
  • Elena Ranguelova

Abstract

Experience in private pension plans and recent policy discussions about investment-based reforms of Social Security suggest that some form of bequest is likely to be part of any such reform that is enacted. This paper provides a first examination of the potential magnitudes of such bequests and of their effect on retirement annuities and asset accumulation. The most likely form of bequest, the preretirement bequest' made when employees die before normal retirement age, reduces the funds available for post-retirement annuities by about 16 percent or, equivalently, requires a one-sixth increase in the Personal Retirement Account saving rate to maintain the same level of post-retirement annuities. We also analyze a variety of post-retirement bequest options. The least costly option that we consider is adding a ten-year-certain' feature to the life annuity, thereby providing a bequest whenever the retiree dies before age 77. This would reduce annuities, relative to providing only preretirement bequests, by about 6 percent. The most costly option that we consider would provide a bequest equal to the remaining actuarial value of the PRA annuity at the time of death and would require reducing all annuities by about 23 percent unless the PRA saving rate is raised. We analyze the size distribution of bequests that would result under different bequest rules and consider the implications for aggregate capital accumulation.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7065.

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Date of creation: Apr 1999
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Publication status: published as Martin S. Feldstein, Elena Ranguelova. "The Economics of Bequests in Pensions and Social Security," in Martin Feldstein and Jeffrey B. Liebman, editors, "The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform" University of Chicago Press (2002)
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7065

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  1. Bernheim, B Douglas & Shleifer, Andrei & Summers, Lawrence H, 1986. "The Strategic Bequest Motive," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(3), pages S151-82, July.
  2. Laibson, David, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-77, May.
  3. Akerlof, George A, 1991. "Procrastination and Obedience," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 1-19, May.
  4. Martin Feldstein, 1998. "Privatizing Social Security," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number feld98-1, October.
  5. 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.
  6. B. Douglas Bernheim & Sergei Severinov, 2003. "Bequests as Signals: An Explanation for the Equal Division Puzzle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(4), pages 733-764, August.
  7. John Y. Campbell & Martin Feldstein, 2001. "Risk Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number camp01-1, October.
  8. Ronald Lee & Jonathan Skinner, 1999. "Will Aging Baby Boomers Bust the Federal Budget?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(1), pages 117-140, Winter.
  9. Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1998. "Simulating the Privatization of Social Security in General Equilibrium," NBER Chapters, in: Privatizing Social Security, pages 265-311 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Martin Feldstein & Andrew Samwick, 1997. "The Economics of Prefunding Social Security and Medicare Benefits," NBER Working Papers 6055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Martin Feldstein & Andrew Samwick, 1998. "The Transition Path in Privatizing Social Security," NBER Chapters, in: Privatizing Social Security, pages 215-264 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. B. Douglas Bernheim & Lorenzo Forni & Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1999. "The Adequacy of Life Insurance: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Working Papers 7372, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Olivia S. Mitchell, 1999. "New Evidence on the Money's Worth of Individual Annuities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1299-1318, December.
  14. Martin Feldstein & Elena Ranguelova & Andrew Samwick, 2001. "The Transition to Investment-Based Social Security When Portfolio Returns and Capital Profitability Are Uncertain," NBER Chapters, in: Risk Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform, pages 41-90 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Feldstein, Martin (ed.), 1998. "Privatizing Social Security," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226241012, Winter.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Martin Feldstein & Elena Ranguelova, 1998. "Individual Risk and Intergenerational Risk Sharing in an Investment-Based Social Security Program," NBER Working Papers 6839, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Jeffrey R. Brown, 2003. "Redistribution and Insurance: Mandatory Annuitization With Mortality Heterogeneity," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 70(1), pages 17-41.
  3. 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.
  4. Martin Feldstein & Elena Ranguelova & Andrew Samwick, 2001. "The Transition to Investment-Based Social Security When Portfolio Returns and Capital Profitability Are Uncertain," NBER Chapters, in: Risk Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform, pages 41-90 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Louis Kaplow, 2011. "Targeted savings and labor supply," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 18(5), pages 507-518, October.

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