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Lump-Sum Distributions from Retirement Saving Plans: Receipt and Utilization

In: Inquiries in the Economics of Aging

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  • James M. Poterba
  • Steven F. Venti

Abstract

One of the central issues in evaluating the ongoing shift from defined benefit (DB) to defined contribution (DC) pension plans is the degree to which assets in DC plans will be withdrawn before plan participants reach retirement age. The annual flow of withdrawals from such plans, which are known as lump sum distributions and which are frequently but not always associated with employment changes, has exceeded $100 billion in recent years. This flow is substantially greater than the flow of new contributions to IRAs and other targeted retirement saving programs. This paper draws on data from the 1993 Current Population Survey and the Health and Retirement Survey to summarize the incidence and disposition of lump sum distributions. We find that while less than half of all lump sum distributions are rolled over into IRAs or other retirement saving plans, large distributions are substantially more likely to be saved than smaller ones are. Consequently, more than half of the dollars paid out as lump sum distributions are reinvested. We also explore the correlation between various individual characteristics and the probability of rolling over a lump sum distribution. This is a first step toward developing a model that can be used to evaluate the long- term effects of lump sum distributions, or policies that might affect them, on the financial status of elderly households.
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Suggested Citation

  • James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti, 1998. "Lump-Sum Distributions from Retirement Saving Plans: Receipt and Utilization," NBER Chapters,in: Inquiries in the Economics of Aging, pages 85-108 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:7082
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti, 1994. "401(k) Plans and Tax-Deferred Saving," NBER Chapters,in: Studies in the Economics of Aging, pages 105-142 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Poterba, James M & Venti, Steven F & Wise, David A, 1994. "Targeted Retirement Saving and the Net Worth of Elderly Americans," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 180-185, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2004. "For Better or for Worse: Default Effects and 401(k) Savings Behavior," NBER Chapters,in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 81-126 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. James Poterba & Joshua Rauh & Steven Venti & David Wise, 2007. "Defined Contribution Plans, Defined Benefit Plans, and the Accumulation of Retirement Wealth," NBER Chapters,in: Public Policy and Retirement, Trans-Atlantic Public Economics Seminar (TAPES), pages 2062-2086 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Jeffrey R. Brown & Olivia S. Mitchell & James M. Poterba & Mark J. Warshawsky, "undated". "Taxing Retirement Income: Nonqualified Annuities and Distributions from Qualified Accounts," Pension Research Council Working Papers 99-3, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
    4. Gary V. Engelhardt, 2000. "Have 401(k)s Raised Household Saving? Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 33, McMaster University.
    5. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti, 2001. "Preretirement Cashouts and Foregone Retirement Saving: Implications for 401(k) Asset Accumulation," NBER Chapters,in: Themes in the Economics of Aging, pages 23-58 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2004. "Saving or Retirement on the Path of Least Resistance," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000606, UCLA Department of Economics.
    7. Clark, Robert L. & Morrill, Melinda Sandler & Vanderweide, David, 2014. "Defined benefit pension plan distribution decisions by public sector employees," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 73-88.
    8. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2009. "The Importance of Default Options for Retirement Saving Outcomes: Evidence from the United States," NBER Chapters,in: Social Security Policy in a Changing Environment, pages 167-195 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2001. "Defined Contribution Pensions: Plan Rules, Participant Decisions, and the Path of Least Resistance," NBER Working Papers 8655, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Mark Schreiner, 2001. "Measuring Savings," Microeconomics 0108004, EconWPA, revised 27 Dec 2001.
    11. Bassett, William F. & Fleming, Michael J. & Rodrigues, Anthony P., 1998. "How Workers Use 401(K) Plans: The Participation, Contribution, and Withdrawal Decisions," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 51(2), pages 263-289, June.
    12. Andrew A. Samwick & Jonathan Skinner, 1998. "How Will Defined Contribution Pension Plans Affect Retirement Income?," NBER Working Papers 6645, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Hurd, Michael & Panis, Constantijn, 2006. "The choice to cash out pension rights at job change or retirement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(12), pages 2213-2227, December.
    14. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2004. "Plan Design and 401(k) Savings Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 10486, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Engelhardt, Gary V., 2003. "Reasons for job change and the disposition of pre-retirement lump-sum pension distributions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 81(3), pages 333-339, December.
    16. Brown, Jeffrey R. & Mitchell, Olivia S. & Poterba, James M. & Warshawsky, Mark J., 1999. "Taxing Retirement Income: Nonqualified Annuities and Distributions From Qualified Accounts," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 52(3), pages 563-592, September.
    17. Choi, James J. & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2004. "Plan Design and 401(K) Savings Outcomes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 57(2), pages 275-298, June.
    18. Amromin, Gene & Smith, Paul, 2003. "What Explains Early Withdrawals From Retirement Accounts? Evidence From a Panel of Taxpayers," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 56(3), pages 595-612, September.
    19. David A. Wise, 2001. "Introduction to "Themes in the Economics of Aging"," NBER Chapters,in: Themes in the Economics of Aging, pages 1-20 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Reyers, Michelle & van Schalkwyk, Cornelis Hendrik & Gouws, Daniƫl Gerhardus, 2015. "Rational and behavioural predictors of pre-retirement cash-outs," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 23-33.

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