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The trajectory of wealth in retirement

  • Love, David A.
  • Palumbo, Michael G.
  • Smith, Paul A.

In this paper, we develop a measure of household resources that converts total financial and non-financial assets, plus annuity-like assets (mainly, Social Security and defined-benefit pensions) into an expected annual amount of wealth per person in retirement. We use this measure, which we call "annualized comprehensive wealth," to investigate spend-down behavior among a panel of older households in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) from 1998 to 2006. Our analysis indicates that for most retired households, comprehensive wealth balances decline much more slowly than their remaining life expectancies, so that the predominate trend is for real annualized wealth to rise significantly with age over the course of retirement. Comparing the estimated age profiles for annualized wealth with profiles simulated from several different life-cycle models, we find that a model that takes into account uncertain longevity, random medical expenses, and intended bequests lines up best with the broad patterns of rising annualized wealth in the HRS.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 93 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1-2 (February)
Pages: 191-208

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:93:y:2009:i:1-2:p:191-208
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