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The Life-Cycle Personal Accounts Proposal for Social Security: An Evaluation

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Abstract

The life-cycle accounts proposal for Social Security reform has been justified by its proponents using a number of different arguments, but these arguments generally involve the assumption of a high likelihood of good returns on the accounts. A simulation is undertaken to estimate the probability distribution of returns in the accounts based on long-term historical experience. U.S. stock market, bond market and money market data 1871-2004 are used for the analysis. Assuming that future returns behave like historical data, it is found that a baseline personal account portfolio after offset will be negative 32% of the time on the retirement date. The median internal rate of return in this case is 3.4 percent, just above the amount necessary for holders of the accounts to break even. However, the U.S. stock market has been unusually successful historically by world standards. It would be better if we adjust the historical data to reduce the assumed average stock market return for the simulation. When this is done so that the return matches the median stock market return of 15 countries 1900-2000 as reported by Dimson et al. [2002], the baseline personal account is found to be negative 71% of the time on the date of retirement and the median internal rate of return is 2.6 percent.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert J. Shiller, 2005. "The Life-Cycle Personal Accounts Proposal for Social Security: An Evaluation," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1504, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  • Handle: RePEc:cwl:cwldpp:1504
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    Cited by:

    1. Jeffrey R. Brown & Scott J. Weisbenner, 2009. "Who Chooses Defined Contribution Plans?," NBER Chapters,in: Social Security Policy in a Changing Environment, pages 131-161 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Heer, Burkhard & Polito, Vito & Wickens, Michael R., 2017. "Population Aging, Social Security and Fiscal Limits," CEPR Discussion Papers 11978, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. 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.
    4. repec:sbe:breart:v:26:y:2006:i:1:a:2500 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Anthony Webb, 2009. "Making Your Nest Egg Last a Lifetime," Issues in Brief ib2009-9-20, Center for Retirement Research, revised Sep 2009.
    6. Jesus Ferreiro & Felipe Serrano, 2012. "Expectations, uncertainty and institutions. An application to the analysis of social security reforms," International Review of Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 26(2), pages 253-266, October.
    7. Binswanger, Johannes, 2007. "Risk management of pensions from the perspective of loss aversion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(3-4), pages 641-667, April.
    8. Carlsson, Evert & Erlandzon, Karl, 2006. "The Bright Side of Shiller-Swaps: A Solution to Inter-generational Risk-sharing," Working Papers in Economics 233, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics, revised 24 Oct 2006.
    9. Dean Baker & J. Bradford Delong & Paul R. Krugman, 2005. "Asset Returns and Economic Growth," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 36(1), pages 289-330.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Private accounts; Lifetime portfolio selection; portfolio choice; pensions; old age insurance; social insurance; stock market; returns; historical simulation; thrift savings plan;

    JEL classification:

    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions

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