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Involuntary Retirement and the Resolution of the Retirement-Consumption Puzzle: Evidence from Australia

  • Garry F. Barrett
  • Matthew Brzozowski

A substantial body of international research has shown that household expenditure on food and non-durables significantly decreases at the time of retirement -- a finding that is inconsistent with the standard life-cycle model of consumption if retirement is an anticipated event. This fall in expenditure has become known as the `retirement- consumption puzzle.' We analyze rich Australian panel data to assess the Australian evidence on the puzzle. We find strong evidence of a fall in expenditures on groceries, food consumed at home and outside meals with retirement. The observed decline in expenditure is explained by a subset of households experiencing an unanticipated wealth shock, such as a major health event or long-term job loss, at the time of retirement. This finding is corroborated by an analysis of alternative measures of household well-being, including indicators of financial hardship, and self-reported financial and life satisfaction. For the majority of households retirement is anticipated and there is no decline in economic welfare at retirement. However, for an important minority, retirement is `involuntary' and these households experience a marked decline across all indicators of economic well-being.

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Paper provided by McMaster University in its series Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers with number 275.

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Length: 42 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mcm:sedapp:275
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  17. Erik Hurst, 2004. "Grasshoppers, Ants and Pre-Retirement Wealth: A Test of Permanent Income Consumers," Working Papers wp088, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  18. John Laitner & Dan Silverman, 2005. "Estimating Life—Cycle Parameters from Consumption Behavior at Retirement”," Working Papers wp099, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  19. Browning, Martin & Deaton, Angus & Irish, Margaret, 1985. "A Profitable Approach to Labor Supply and Commodity Demands over the Life-Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(3), pages 503-43, May.
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