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Observations on the Indexation of Old Age Pensions

In: Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System

  • Lawrence H. Summers

This paper examines some positive and normative aspects of the inflation indexation of public and private pensions. The analysis showsthat alternative indexing arrangements may have far less impact on actual patterns of risk bearing than is usually thought to be the case. In so far as inflation indexing has real effects, there is no presumption that they are beneficial. In particular, the pre-commitment aspects of publicindexing may not be efficient. There are sound reasons to believe that voluntarily agreed on, non-indexed private pensions may well be efficient.Non-indexed pensions may result in an efficient allocation of risks given the other assets and liabilities of pension issuers and beneficiaries. In this case, indexation would impede the efficient allocation of risks. In this paper is also developed an ICOLI (interteinporal cost of living index) which is superior to conventional price indices as a way of evaluating the changes in real well being,associated with changes in wealth. The use of this measure has significant implications for the indexation of pensions, and for the question of what assets should be held in pension portfolios.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Zvi Bodie & John B. Shoven, 1983. "Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bodi83-1, October.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 6034.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:6034
    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: http://www.nber.org
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    1. Breeden, Douglas T., 1979. "An intertemporal asset pricing model with stochastic consumption and investment opportunities," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 265-296, September.
    2. Pesando, James E, 1975. "A Note on the Rationality of the Livingston Price Expectations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(4), pages 849-58, August.
    3. Zvi Bodie, 1982. "Investment Strategy in an Inflationary Environment," NBER Working Papers 0701, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Michael D. Hurd & John B. Shoven, 1983. "The Economic Status of the Elderly," NBER Chapters, in: Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System, pages 359-398 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Sims, Christopher A, 1980. "Macroeconomics and Reality," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(1), pages 1-48, January.
    6. Merton, Robert C, 1973. "An Intertemporal Capital Asset Pricing Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 41(5), pages 867-87, September.
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