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Are Americans Saving "Optimally" for Retirement?

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  • John Karl Scholz
  • Ananth Seshadri
  • Surachai Khitatrakun

Abstract

We solve each household's optimal saving decisions using a life cycle model that incorporates uncertain lifetimes, uninsurable earnings and medical expenses, progressive taxation, government transfers, and pension and social security benefits. With optimal decision rules, we compare, household by household, wealth predictions from the life cycle model using a nationally representative sample. We find, making use of household-specific earnings histories, that the model accounts for more than 80 percent of the 1992 cross-sectional variation in wealth. Fewer than 20 percent of households have less wealth than their optimal targets, and the wealth deficit of those who are undersaving is generally small.

Suggested Citation

  • John Karl Scholz & Ananth Seshadri & Surachai Khitatrakun, 2006. "Are Americans Saving "Optimally" for Retirement?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(4), pages 607-643, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:114:y:2006:i:4:p:607-643
    DOI: 10.1086/506335
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth

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