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Uncertain Medical Expenses and Precautionary Saving Near the End of the Life Cycle

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  • Michael G. Palumbo

Abstract

This paper introduces a dynamic, structural model of household consumption decisions in which elderly families consider the effects of uncertain future medical expenses when deciding current levels of consumption. The model with uncertain medical expenses implies a potentially important role for precautionary saving incentives to explain slow rates of dissaving among elderly Americans during retirement. Rather than just simulating the stochastic dynamic model, preference parameters are estimated using panel data on health, wealth and expenditures for retired families. The health uncertainty model predicts consumption levels closer to observed expenditures than a life cycle model with uncertain longevity. However, elderly families typically dissave their financial assets more slowly than even the baseline health uncertainty model predicts is optimal.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael G. Palumbo, 1999. "Uncertain Medical Expenses and Precautionary Saving Near the End of the Life Cycle," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(2), pages 395-421.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:66:y:1999:i:2:p:395-421.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/1467-937X.00092
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