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What You Don’t Know Can’t Help You: Pension Knowledge and Retirement Decision Making

  • Ann Huff Stevens
  • Sewin Chan

    (Department of Economics, University of California Davis)

This paper provides an answer to an important empirical puzzle in the retirement literature: while most people know little about their own pension plans, retirement behavior is strongly affected by pension incentives. We combine administrative and self-reported pension data to measure the retirement response to actual and perceived financial incentives. While virtually all recent empirical work has relied on administrative- or employer-reported data, we document an important role for self-reported pension data in determining retirement behavior. Well-informed individuals are five times more responsive to pension incentives than the average. In contrast, ill-informed individuals respond to their own misperceptions of the incentives rather than being unresponsive to any measured incentives.

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Paper provided by University of California, Davis, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 518.

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Length: 37
Date of creation: 01 Oct 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cda:wpaper:05-18
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  1. James H. Stock & David A. Wise, 1988. "Pensions, The Option Value of Work, and Retirement," NBER Working Papers 2686, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Mitchell, Olivia S, 1988. "Worker Knowledge of Pension Provisions," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(1), pages 21-39, January.
  3. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2001. "Retirement and Wealth," Working Papers wp002, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  4. Andrew A. Samwick, 1998. "New Evidence on Pensions, Social Security, and the Timing of Retirement," NBER Working Papers 6534, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Courtney Coile & Jonathan Gruber, 2000. "Social Security and Retirement," NBER Working Papers 7830, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Chan, Sewin & Stevens, Ann Huff, 2004. "Do changes in pension incentives affect retirement? A longitudinal study of subjective retirement expectations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1307-1333, July.
  7. Card, David, 1999. "The causal effect of education on earnings," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 30, pages 1801-1863 Elsevier.
  8. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2001. "Imperfect Knowledge, Retirement and Saving," Working Papers wp012, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  9. Esther Duflo & Emmanuel Saez, 2000. "Participation and Investment Decisions in a Retirement Plan: The Influence of Colleagues' Choices," NBER Working Papers 7735, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Chan Sewin & Stevens Ann H, 2004. "How Does Job Loss Affect the Timing of Retirement?," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 3(1), pages 1-26, May.
  11. B. Douglas Bernheim & Daniel M. Garrett, 1996. "The Determinants and Consequences of Financial Education in the Workplace: Evidence from a Survey of Households," NBER Working Papers 5667, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Esther Duflo & Emmanuel Saez, 2002. "The Role of Information and Social Interactions in Retirement Plan Decisions: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," NBER Working Papers 8885, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Robin L. Lumsdaine & James H. Stock & David A. Wise, 1990. "Three Models of Retirement: Computational Complexity Versus Predictive Validity," NBER Working Papers 3558, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. 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.
  15. James J. Heckman, 1976. "The Common Structure of Statistical Models of Truncation, Sample Selection and Limited Dependent Variables and a Simple Estimator for Such Models," NBER Chapters, in: Annals of Economic and Social Measurement, Volume 5, number 4, pages 475-492 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Emmanuel Saez & Esther Duflo, 2003. "The role of information and social interactions in retirement plan decisions: Evidence from a randomized experiment," Framed Field Experiments 00141, The Field Experiments Website.
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