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Individual Financial Decisions in Retirement Saving Plans and the Provision of Resources for Retirement

In: Privatizing Social Security

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  • James M. Poterba
  • David A. Wise

Abstract

Proposals for mandatory private saving accounts differ in the degree of investment discretion that they provide to individual savers, and in their provisions for annuitization of accumulated assets. With respect to investment choices, some argue that individuals must be prevented from investing too conservatively, and earning low returns over their accumulation period, while others argue that individuals should be protected from recklessly investing their retirement assets. With respect to annuitization, there is concern that individuals might not choose annuities and would thereby expose themselves to a risk of outliving their assets in a privatized system. This paper draws on the existing experience with 401(k) plans and other defined contribution pension plans to provide evidence on each of these issues. We find that the share of 401(k) plan assets held in corporate equities has increased substantially in recent years. We are only able to provide limited evidence on participant asset management, since many 401(k) plans have limited options in this regard. We do find, however, that a participant's education and income levels are related to asset allocation decisions, with less educated and lower income participants less inclined to invest in equity securities. We also analyze a unique data base on TIAA-CREF participants and find several attributes of annuitization behavior that seem inconsistent with standard behavior in the lifecycle model.
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Suggested Citation

  • James M. Poterba & David A. Wise, 1998. "Individual Financial Decisions in Retirement Saving Plans and the Provision of Resources for Retirement," NBER Chapters,in: Privatizing Social Security, pages 363-401 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:6254
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Stacey H. Chen, 2003. "Risk Aversion and College Attendance," Discussion Papers 03-03, University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Economics.
    2. Paula Lopes, 2003. "(UBS Pensions series 19) Are Annuities Value for Money? Who Can Afford Them?," FMG Discussion Papers dp473, Financial Markets Group.
    3. Börsch-Supan, Axel, 2005. "Risiken im Lebenszyklus: Theorie und Evidenz," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 05-05, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim;Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.
    4. Angus S. Deaton & Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Christina Paxson, 2002. "Social Security and Inequality over the Life Cycle," NBER Chapters,in: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform, pages 115-148 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Charupat, Narat & Milevsky, Moshe A., 2002. "Optimal asset allocation in life annuities: a note," Insurance: Mathematics and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 199-209, April.
    6. Srinivas, P.S. & Whitehouse, Edward & Yermo, Juan, 2000. "Regulating private pension funds’ structure, performance and investments: cross-country evidence," MPRA Paper 14753, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Papke, Leslie E., 2004. "Individual financial decisions in retirement saving plans: the role of participant-direction," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1-2), pages 39-61, January.
    8. Poterba, James M. & Samwick, Andrew A., 2003. "Taxation and household portfolio composition: US evidence from the 1980s and 1990s," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 5-38, January.
    9. Mintz, Jack & Smart, Michael, 2002. "Tax-exempt investors and the asset allocation puzzle," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 195-215, February.
    10. James M. Poterba, 2000. "Stock Market Wealth and Consumption," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(2), pages 99-118, Spring.
    11. Börsch-Supan, Axel, 2005. "Risiken im Lebenszyklus : Theorie und Evidenz," Papers 05-05, Sonderforschungsbreich 504.
    12. Lee Lillard & Robert J. Willis, 2001. "Cognition and Wealth: The Importance of Probabilistic Thinking," Working Papers wp007, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    13. J. Ph. & GAUDEMET, 2001. "The purchase of individual life-annuities: a description of the french institutional setting," Documents de Travail de la DESE - Working Papers of the DESE g2001-08, Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques, DESE.
    14. Vittas, Dimitri, 1998. "Regulatory controversies of private pension funds," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1893, The World Bank.
    15. Preecha Swasdpeera & I.M. Pandey, 2012. "Determinants of personal saving: a study of salaried individuals in Thailand," Afro-Asian Journal of Finance and Accounting, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 3(1), pages 34-68.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions

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