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A new look at the wealth adequacy of older U.S. households

  • David A. Love
  • Paul A. Smith
  • Lucy C. McNair

We construct two measures of the current wealth adequacy of older U.S. households using the 1998--2006 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). The first is the ratio of "comprehensive wealth"--defined as net worth plus the expected value of future income streams--to the wealth that would be needed to generate expected poverty-line income in future years. By this measure, we find that the median older U.S. household is reasonably well situated, with a "poverty ratio" of about 3.9 in 2006. However, we find that about 18 percent of households have less wealth than would be needed to generate 150 percent of poverty-line income over their expected future lifetimes. Our second measure is the ratio of the annuitized value of comprehensive resources to pre-retirement earnings. This measure identifies a median "replacement rate" of about 105 percent, with about 13 percent of households experiencing replacement rates of less than 50 percent. Comparing the leading edge of the baby boomers in 2006 to households of the same age in 1998, we find that the baby boomers show slightly less wealth, in real terms, than their elders did, and single boomers show a bit higher incidence of "inadequacy" than did their elders. Nonetheless, the median single boomer appears to have adequate resources. Moreover, we find a rising age profile of annualized wealth, even within households over time and after controlling for other factors, suggesting that older households are not spending their wealth as quickly as their survival probabilities are falling.

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Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2008-20.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2008-20
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  1. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2007. "Baby Boomer retirement security: The roles of planning, financial literacy, and housing wealth," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 205-224, January.
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  3. Gustman, Alan L. & Steinmeier, Thomas L., 1999. "Effects of pensions on savings: analysis with data from the health and retirement study," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 271-324, June.
  4. Robert Haveman & Karen Holden & Barbara Wolfe & Shane Sherlund, 2006. "Do Newly Retired Workers in the United States Have Sufficient Resources to Maintain Well-Being?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 44(2), pages 249-264, April.
  5. Willaim G. Gale & Karen M. Pence, 2006. "Are Successive Generations Getting Wealthier, and If So, Why?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 37(1), pages 155-234.
  6. Martin Browning & Annamaria Lusardi, 1996. "Household Saving: Micro Theories and Micro Facts," Discussion Papers 96-01, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  7. Shiller Robert J., 2006. "Long-Term Perspectives on the Current Boom in Home Prices," The Economists' Voice, De Gruyter, vol. 3(4), pages 1-11, March.
  8. Olivia S. Mitchell, 1999. "New Evidence on the Money's Worth of Individual Annuities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1299-1318, December.
  9. Bernheim, B. Douglas, 1987. "The economic effects of social security : Toward a reconciliation of theory and measurement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 273-304, August.
  10. Engen, Eric & Gale, William & Uccello, Cori, 1999. "The Adequacy of Household Saving," MPRA Paper 56442, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  11. Alicia H. Munnell & Mauricio Soto, 2006. "What Replacement Rates Do Households Actually Experience In Retirement?," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2005-10, Center for Retirement Research.
  12. John Karl Scholz & Ananth Seshadri & Surachai Khitatrakun, 2006. "Are Americans Saving "Optimally" for Retirement?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(4), pages 607-643, August.
  13. Robert Haveman & Karen Holden & Andrei Romanov & Barbara Wolfe, 2007. "Assessing the maintenance of savings sufficiency over the first decade of retirement," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 14(4), pages 481-502, August.
  14. Michael Hurd & Susann Rohwedder, 2006. "Alternative Measures of Replacement Rates," Working Papers wp132, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
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