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Precautionary Saving Over the Lifecycle

  • John Laitner

    (Institute for Social Research)

This paper studies the quantitative importance of precautionary wealth accumulation relative to life—cycle saving for retirement. Section 1 examines panel data on earnings from the PSID. Using a bivariate normal model of random effects, we find that second— period—of—life earnings are strongly positively correlated with initial earnings but have a higher variance. Section 2 studies the consequences for life—cycle saving. Households know their youthful earning power as they enter the labor market, but only in midlife do they learn their actual second—period earning ability. For plausible calibrations, precautionary saving only adds 5—6% to aggregative life—cycle wealth accumulation. Nevertheless, we find that, given borrowing constraints on households’ behavior, the variety of earning profiles that our bivariate normal model generates itself stimulates more than twice as much extra wealth accumulation as precautionary saving.

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Paper provided by University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center in its series Working Papers with number wp083.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp083
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  1. John Laitner & Dmitriy Stolyarov, 2003. "Technological Change and the Stock Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1240-1267, September.
  2. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1993. "Uninsured idiosyncratic risk and aggregate saving," Working Papers 502, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  3. Caballero, Ricardo J., 1990. "Consumption puzzles and precautionary savings," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 113-136, January.
  4. Barsky, Robert B, et al, 1997. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 537-79, May.
  5. John Rust & Christopher Phelan, 1994. "How Social Security and Medicare Affect Retirement Behavior in a World of Incomplete Markets," Public Economics 9406005, EconWPA, revised 06 Jul 1994.
  6. Barro, Robert J., 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Scholarly Articles 3451399, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  7. Weil, Philippe, 1990. "Nonexpected Utility in Macroeconomics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 29-42, February.
  8. Michael Hurd & Susann Rohwedder, 2003. "The Retirement-Consumption Puzzle: Anticipated and Actual Declines in Spending at Retirement," NBER Working Papers 9586, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Modigliani, Franco, 1986. "Life Cycle, Individual Thrift, and the Wealth of Nations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 297-313, June.
  10. John M. Abowd & David Card, 1986. "On the Covariance Structure of Earnings and Hours Changes," NBER Working Papers 1832, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. John Laitner, 2002. "Wealth Inequality and Altruistic Bequests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 270-273, May.
  12. Deaton, Angus, 1991. "Saving and Liquidity Constraints," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(5), pages 1221-48, September.
  13. Robert B. Barsky & Miles S. Kimball & F. Thomas Juster & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1995. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Working Papers 5213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & James Sefton & Martin Weale, 1999. "Simulating the Transmission of Wealth Inequity via Bequests," NBER Working Papers 7183, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. B. Douglas Bernheim & Jonathan Skinner & Steven Weinberg, 1997. "What Accounts for the Variation in Retirement Wealth Among U.S. Households?," NBER Working Papers 6227, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. James Banks & Richard Blundell & Sarah Tanner, 1995. "Is there a retirement-savings puzzle?," IFS Working Papers W95/04, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  17. David Altig, 2001. "Simulating Fundamental Tax Reform in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 574-595, June.
  18. Zeldes, Stephen P, 1989. "Optimal Consumption with Stochastic Income: Deviations from Certainty Equivalence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 104(2), pages 275-98, May.
  19. John Laitner, 2001. "Wealth Accumulation in the U.S.: Do Inheritances and Bequests Play a Significant Role?," Working Papers wp019, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  20. John Laitner, 2003. "Labor Supply Responses to Social Security," Working Papers wp050, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
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