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Annuitized Wealth and Consumption at Older Ages

Author

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  • Barbara A. Butrica
  • Gordon B.T. Mermin

    () (Urban Institute)

Abstract

The growing popularity of Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and defined contribution (DC) pension plans, which generally provide benefits in the form of lump sum payments instead of annuities, is likely to affect spending patterns at older ages. People who enter retirement with little of their wealth annuitized run the risk of spending too quickly and depleting their assets before they die. Or they might spend too slowly, out of fear of running out of money, and not enjoy as comfortable a retirement as they could afford. This study uses data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), including a recent supplemental expenditure survey, to examine how household expenditures among adults ages 65 and older vary by the degree of annuitization—where annuities include Social Security benefits, pensions and private annuity contracts, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Results indicate that typical older married adults hold 55 percent of their retirement wealth in annuitized assets, and unmarried adults have 59 percent of their wealth annuitized. Older adults with little annuitized wealth spend more, even controlling for demographics, income, and wealth. If all defined benefit pensions (DB) were converted into unannuitized DC retirement accounts, discretionary spending could increase by as much as 3 percent for married adults and 11 percent for unmarried adults. By comparison, if Social Security was completely privatized, and retirees did not annuitize, discretionary spending could increase by as much as 22 percent for married adults and 38 percent for unmarried adults.

Suggested Citation

  • Barbara A. Butrica & Gordon B.T. Mermin, 2006. "Annuitized Wealth and Consumption at Older Ages," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2006-26, Center for Retirement Research, revised Dec 2006.
  • Handle: RePEc:crr:crrwps:wp2006-26
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    File URL: http://crr.bc.edu/working-papers/annuitized-wealth-and-consumption-at-older-ages/
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. James Poterba & Steven Venti & David Wise, 2011. "The Composition and Drawdown of Wealth in Retirement," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(4), pages 95-118, Fall.
    2. Enrique Fatás & Juan Lacomba & Francisco Lagos & Ana Moro-Egido, 2013. "An experimental test on dynamic consumption and lump-sum pensions," SERIEs: Journal of the Spanish Economic Association, Springer;Spanish Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 393-413, November.
    3. Roozbeh Hosseini, 2015. "Adverse Selection in the Annuity Market and the Role for Social Security," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 123(4), pages 941-984.

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    Keywords

    annuitized wealth; consumption; older age; IRAs; DCs;

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