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Asset allocation and asset location: household evidence from the survey of consumer finances

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  • Bergstresser, Daniel
  • Poterba, James

Abstract

The rapid growth of assets in self-directed tax-deferred retirement accounts has generated a new set of financial decisions for many households. In addition to deciding which assets to hold, households with substantial assets in both taxable and tax-deferred accounts must decide where to hold them. This paper uses data from the Survey of Consumer Finances to assess how many households have enough assets in both taxable and tax-deferred accounts to face significant asset location choices. It also investigates the asset location decisions these households make. In 1998, 45 percent of households had at least some assets in a tax-deferred account, and more than ten million households had at least $25,000 in both a taxable and a tax-deferred account. Many households hold equities in their tax-deferred accounts but not in their taxable accounts, while also holding taxable bonds in their taxable accounts. Most of these households could reduce their taxes by relocating heavily-taxed fixed income assets to their tax-deferred account. Asset allocation inside and outside tax-deferred accounts is quite similar, with about seventy percent of assets in each location invested in equity securities. For nearly three quarters of the households that hold apparently tax-inefficient portfolios, a shift of less than $10,000 in financial assets can move their portfolio to a tax-efficient allocation. Asset location decisions within IRAs appear to be sensitive to marginal tax rates; we do not find evidence for such sensitivity in other tax-deferred accounts.
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Suggested Citation

  • Bergstresser, Daniel & Poterba, James, 2004. "Asset allocation and asset location: household evidence from the survey of consumer finances," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1893-1915, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:88:y:2004:i:9-10:p:1893-1915
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Shoven, John B. & Sialm, Clemens, 2004. "Asset location in tax-deferred and conventional savings accounts," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1-2), pages 23-38, January.
    2. James Poterba, 2004. "Valuing Assets in Retirement Saving Accounts," NBER Working Papers 10395, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Bergstresser, Daniel & Poterba, James, 2002. "Do after-tax returns affect mutual fund inflows?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 381-414, March.
    4. John B. Shoven, 1999. "The Location and Allocation of Assets in Pension and Conventional Savings Accounts," NBER Working Papers 7007, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. James M. Poterba & John B. Shoven & Clemens Sialm, 2000. "Asset Location for Retirement Savers," NBER Working Papers 7991, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Crain, Terry L. & Austin, Jeffrey R., 1997. "An analysis of the tradeoff between tax deferred earnings in iras and preferential capital gains," Financial Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 227-242.
    7. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti, 2004. "The Transition to Personal Accounts and Increasing Retirement Wealth: Macro- and Microevidence," NBER Chapters,in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 17-80 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Maki, Dean M., 1996. "Portfolio Shuffling and Tax Reform," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 49(3), pages 317-29, September.
    9. Ana M. Aizcorbe & Arthur B. Kennickell & Kevin B. Moore, 2003. "Recent changes in U.S. family finances: evidence from the 1998 and 2001 Survey of Consumer Finances," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Jan, pages 1-32.
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    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • G2 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services

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