IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this book chapter

Preretirement Cashouts and Foregone Retirement Saving: Implications for 401(k) Asset Accumulation

In: Themes in the Economics of Aging

  • James M. Poterba
  • Steven F. Venti

This paper presents new evidence on the potential importance of 401(K) assets in contributing to the retirement resources of future retirees. We use data on past 401(k) participation rates by age and imcome decile, along with information on average 401(k) contribution rates, to project the future 401(k) contribution trajectories of households that are currently headed by individuals between the ages of 29 and 39. We allow for the possibility of pre-retirmenet withdrawal of 401(k) assets when individuals experience employment transistion. By combining data from the Health and Retirement Survye on the likelihood of 'cashing out' a 401(k) account conditional on a job change, with data from other sources on the probability of job change, it is possible to estimate the prospective pre-retirement 'leakage' from 401(k) accounts. Our central findings are that for households reaching retirement age between 2025 and 2035, 401(k) balances are likely to be a much more important factor in financial preparation for retirement than they are today. We estimate that average 401(k) balances in 2025 will be between five and ten times as large as they are today, and would represent one-half to twice Social Security wealth (depending on investment allocation and based on current Social Security provisions). For persons retiring in 2035 we estimate that 401(k) balances will be three-quarters to two and one-half times Social Security wealth. Moreover, we find that pre-retirement withdrawals have a small effect on the balance in 401(k) accounts. We estimate that these withdrawals typically reduce average 401(k) assets at age 65 by about five percent. This is largely because most households who are eligible for a lump sum distribution when they change jobs choose to keep their accumulated 401(k) assets in the retirement saving system. These households either leave their assets in their previous employer's 401(k) plan, or they roll the assets over to another retirement saving account, such a

(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

in new window

This chapter was published in:
  • David A. Wise, 2001. "Themes in the Economics of Aging," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number wise01-1, September.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 10320.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:10320
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.

    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    as in new window
    1. William F. Bassett & Michael J. Fleming & Anthony P. Rodrigues, 1998. "How workers use 401(k) plans: the participation, contribution, and withdrawal decisions," Staff Reports 38, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    2. David Neumark & Daniel Polsky & Daniel Hansen, 1997. "Has Job Stability Declined Yet? New Evidence for the 1990's," NBER Working Papers 6330, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1999. "Implications of Rising Personal Retirement Saving," NBER Working Papers 6295, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Chang, Angela E., 1996. "Tax Policy, Lump-Sum Pension Distributions, and Household Saving," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 49(2), pages 235-49, June.
    5. David A. Wise, 1998. "Frontiers in the Economics of Aging," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number wise98-1, September.
    6. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1995. "Lump-Sum Distributions from Retirement Saving Plans: Receipt and Utilization," NBER Working Papers 5298, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Sabelhaus, John & Weiner, David, 1999. "Disposition of Lump-Sum Pension Distributions: Evidence from Tax Returns," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 52(n. 3), pages 593-614, September.
    8. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1995. "Pension Incentives and Job Mobility," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number pijm, November.
    9. David A. Wise, 1998. "Introduction to "Frontiers in the Economics of Aging"," NBER Chapters, in: Frontiers in the Economics of Aging, pages 1-20 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:10320. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.