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Imperfect annuity markets, unintended bequests, and the optimal age structure of social security benefits

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  • Feldstein, Martin

Abstract

The social security program now provides a constant real benefit throughout each retirees lifetime. This paper examines whether total welfare would rise if benefits were lower in early retirement years (when most individuals have some saving with which to finance consumption) and higher in later years (when the uncertainty of survival and the absence of actuarially fair private annuities makes the availability of social security benefits more important.) The analysis shows that there is a potentially important difference between the structure of benefits that would be preferred by the current population of workers and retirees and the structure of benefits that would maximize the steady state level of social welfare. This difference reflects the role of unintended bequests. The provision of higher benefits to older retirees reduces individually optimal savings and therefore the level of unintended bequests. While those bequests may have no value to the retirees, they are clearly of value to the young workers who will receive those bequests. More generally, the system of level benefits raises the steady state level of the capital stock and of total real income. The present paper provides an explicit analysis of a case in which the current workers want benefits to increase with age while the social security system that maximizes steady state welfare would provide higher benefits to young retirees than to the very old.
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  • Feldstein, Martin, 1990. "Imperfect annuity markets, unintended bequests, and the optimal age structure of social security benefits," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 31-43, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:41:y:1990:i:1:p:31-43
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    1. Paul A. Samuelson, 1958. "An Exact Consumption-Loan Model of Interest with or without the Social Contrivance of Money," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66, pages 467-467.
    2. Martin Feldstein, 1985. "The Optimal Level of Social Security Benefits," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 100(2), pages 303-320.
    3. Benjamin M. Friedman & Mark Warshawsky, 1985. "Annuity Prices and Saving Behavior in the United States," NBER Working Papers 1683, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Benjamin M. Friedman & Mark Warshawsky, 1985. "The Cost of Annuities: Implications for Saving Behavior and Bequests," NBER Working Papers 1682, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. de la Croix, David & Pierrard, Olivier & Sneessens, Henri R., 2013. "Aging and pensions in general equilibrium: Labor market imperfections matter," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 104-124.
    2. Matthew Weinzierl, 2014. "Seesaws and Social Security Benefits Indexing," NBER Working Papers 20671, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Alan D. Viard, 2007. "The Welfare Effects Of Pay-As-You-Go Retirement Programs: The Role Of Tax And Benefit Timing," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 25(2), pages 282-292, April.
    4. Andras Simonovits, 2018. "Designing pension benefits when longevities increase with wages," IEHAS Discussion Papers 1804, Institute of Economics, Centre for Economic and Regional Studies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
    5. Sinn, Hans-Werner, 2004. "The pay-as-you-go pension system as fertility insurance and an enforcement device," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1335-1357, July.
    6. 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.
    7. Schröder, Carsten, 2012. "Profitability of pension contributions – evidence from real-life employment biographies," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(03), pages 311-336, July.
    8. repec:ksa:szemle:1789 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. John Sabelhaus & Julie Topoleski, 2006. "Uncertain Policy for an Uncertain World: The Case of Social Security: Working Paper 2006-05," Working Papers 17664, Congressional Budget Office.
    10. de la Croix, David & Pierrard, Olivier & Sneessens, Henri R., 2013. "Aging and pensions in general equilibrium: Labor market imperfections matter," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 104-124.
    11. Sven H. Sinclair & Kent A. Smetters, 2004. "Health Shocks and the Demand for Annuities: Technical Paper 2004-09," Working Papers 15868, Congressional Budget Office.
    12. Hans-Werner Sinn, 1998. "The Pay-as-you-go Pension System as a Fertility Insurance and Enforcement Device," CESifo Working Paper Series 154, CESifo Group Munich.
    13. Zhang, Jie & Zhang, Junsen & Lee, Ronald, 2003. "Rising longevity, education, savings, and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 83-101, February.

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