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Involuntary Retirement and the Resolution of the Retirement-Consumption Puzzle: Evidence from Australia

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  • Barrett, Garry F.
  • Brzozowski, Matthew

Abstract

A substantial body of international research has shown that household expenditure on food and non-durables significantly decreases at the time of retirement - a finding that is inconsistent with the standard life-cycle model of consumption if retirement is an anticipated event. This fall in expenditure has become known as the `retirement-consumption puzzle.' We analyze rich Australian panel data to assess the Australian evidence on the puzzle. We find strong evidence of a fall in expenditures on groceries, food consumed at home and outside meals with retirement. The observed decline in expenditure is explained by a subset of households experiencing an unanticipated wealth shock, such as a major health event or long-term job loss, at the time of retirement. This finding is corroborated by an analysis of alternative measures of household well-being, including indicators of financial hardship, and self-reported financial and life satisfaction. For the majority of households retirement is anticipated and there is no decline in economic welfare at retirement. However, for an important minority, retirement is `involuntary' and these households experience a marked decline across all indicators of economic well-being.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2123/7697
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Sydney, School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2010-10.

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Date of creation: Sep 2010
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Handle: RePEc:syd:wpaper:2123/7697

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Keywords: Consumption Smoothing; Household Expenditure; Retirement;

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  1. Michael Hurd & Susann Rohwedder, 2005. "The Retirement-Consumption Puzzle: Anticipated and Actual Declines in Spending at Retirement," Working Papers 242, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  2. Deborah A. Cobb-Clark & Steven Stillman, 2009. "The Retirement Expectations of Middle-aged Australians," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 85(269), pages 146-163, 06.
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  14. Martin Browning & Thomas F. Crossley & Gugliemo Weber, 2002. "Asking Consumption Questions in General Purpose Surveys," CAM Working Papers 2002-05, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics. Centre for Applied Microeconometrics.
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  16. B. Douglas Bernheim & Jonathan Skinner & Steven Weinberg, 1997. "What Accounts for the Variation in Retirement Wealth Among U.S. Households?," Working Papers 97035, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  17. Erik Hurst, 2003. "Grasshoppers, Ants, and Pre-Retirement Wealth: A Test of Permanent Income," NBER Working Papers 10098, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  21. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger, 2006. "Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 3-24, Winter.
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Cited by:
  1. Garry F. Barrett & Milica Kecmanovic, 2012. "Changes in Subjective Well-being with Retirement: Assessing Savings Adequacy in Australia," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 296, McMaster University.

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