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Life-cycle saving, limits on contributions to DC pension plans, and lifetime tax benefits

  • Jagadeesh Gokhale
  • Laurence J. Kotlikoff
  • Mark J. Warshawsky

This paper analyzes questions related to defined contribution (DC) plans. For what types of households are statutory contribution limits likely to bind? How large is the lifetime tax benefit from participating in a DC plan and how does it vary with lifetime income? The authors find that contribution limits bind for households that begin their plan participation late in life or wish to retire early, single-earner households, those who are not borrowing-constrained, those with rapid rates of real wage growth, and those with high levels of earnings regardless of age. Setting contribution rates at the average maximum level allowed by employers and assuming a 4% real return on assets, the lifetime benefit rises from 2% of lifetime consumption for households earning $25,000 per year, to 9.8% for those earning $300,000 per year. Contribution ceilings limit the benefit for high earners and are sensitive to the assumed rate of return.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland in its series Working Paper with number 0102.

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Date of creation: 2001
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedcwp:0102
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  1. Christopher D. Carroll & Lawrence H. Summers, 1991. "Consumption Growth Parallels Income Growth: Some New Evidence," NBER Chapters, in: National Saving and Economic Performance, pages 305-348 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. B. Douglas Bernheim & John B. Shoven, 1991. "National Saving and Economic Performance," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bern91-2, May.
  3. Hubbard, R Glenn & Skinner, Jonathan & Zeldes, Stephen P, 1995. "Precautionary Saving and Social Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(2), pages 360-99, April.
  4. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1993. "Do 401(k) Contributions Crowd Out Other Persoanl Saving?," NBER Working Papers 4391, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Lawrence H. Summers, 1980. "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers in Aggregate Capital Accumulation," NBER Working Papers 0445, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Mark J. Warshawsky & John Ameriks, . "How Prepared Are Americans for Retirement?," Pension Research Council Working Papers 98-11, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  7. B. Douglas Bernheim, 2000. "How Much Should Americans Be Saving for Retirement?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 288-292, May.
  8. Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & John Sabelhaus, 1995. "Understanding the postwar decline in United States saving: a cohort analysis," Working Paper 9518, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  9. Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Mark J. Warshawsky, 1999. "Comparing the Economic and Conventional Approaches to Financial Planning," NBER Working Papers 7321, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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