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Lessons of the Financial Crisis for the Design of National Pension Systems

  • Gary Burtless

The recent financial crisis and the historical record suggest important lessons about the design of national pension systems. First, wide fluctuations in asset returns make it hard for well-informed savers to select a saving rate or a sensible investment strategy for defined-contribution (DC) pensions. Workers who follow identical investment strategies but who retire a few years apart can receive DC pensions that are startlingly unequal. Second, it is hard for ordinary workers, as opposed to optimal planners, to make sensible choices about portfolio allocation. Their investment errors mean that actual returns fall short of the theoretical returns that could be earned by well-informed, disciplined investors. (JEL codes: G01, G11, H55 and J26) Copyright The Author 2010. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Ifo Institute for Economic Research, Munich. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oxfordjournals.org, Oxford University Press.

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Article provided by CESifo in its journal CESifo Economic Studies.

Volume (Year): 56 (2010)
Issue (Month): 3 (September)
Pages: 323-349

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Handle: RePEc:oup:cesifo:v:56:y:2010:i:3:p:323-349
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  1. Bebchuk, Lucian Arye & Fried, Jesse, 2003. "Executive Compensation as an Agency Problem," CEPR Discussion Papers 3961, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Gary Burtless, 2000. "Social Security Privatization and Financial Market Risk: Lessons from U.S. Financial History," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 211, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  3. Bebchuk, Lucian A. & Fried, Jesse M., 2003. "Executive Compensation as an Agency Problem," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt81q3136r, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
  4. Choi, James J. & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2004. "Plan Design and 401(k) Savings Outcomes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 57(2), pages 275-98, June.
  5. Canner, Niko & Mankiw, N Gregory & Weil, David N, 1997. "An Asset Allocation Puzzle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(1), pages 181-91, March.
  6. Alexander, Gordon J. & Jones, Jonathan D. & Nigro, Peter J., 1998. "Mutual fund shareholders: characteristics, investor knowledge, and sources of information," Financial Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 7(4), pages 301-316.
  7. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard H. Thaler, 2002. "How Much Is Investor Autonomy Worth?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 57(4), pages 1593-1616, 08.
  8. Shlomo Benartzi, 2001. "Excessive Extrapolation and the Allocation of 401(k) Accounts to Company Stock," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 56(5), pages 1747-1764, October.
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