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Grasshoppers, Ants and Pre-Retirement Wealth: A Test of Permanent Income Consumers

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  • Erik Hurst

    (University of Chicago and NBER)

Abstract

This paper shows that households who enter retirement with low wealth consistently followed non-permanent income consumption rules during their working years. Using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), household wealth in 1989 is predicted for a sample of 50-65 year olds using both current and past income, occupation, demographic, employment, and health characteristics. Using the residuals from this first stage regression, the sample of pre-retired households is subsetted into households who save ‘lower’ than predicted and all other households. By construction, these households had similar opportunities to save; the average household in both these sub-samples are very similar along all observable income and demographic characteristics. It is then shown that households in the low wealth residual sample had much larger declines in consumption upon retirement. Such a result is consistent with the household having inadequately planned for retirement. The panel component of the PSID is then used to analyze the consumption behavior of these households early in their lifecycle. It is shown that these low pre-retirement wealth households had consumption growth that responded to predictable changes in income during their early working years. No such behavior was found among the other pre-retired households. Moreover, the low wealth residual households responded both to predictable income increases as well as predictable income declines, a result that is inconsistent with a liquidity constraints explanation. After ruling out other theories of consumption to explain these facts, it is concluded that households who entered retirement with lower than predicted wealth consistently followed near sighted consumption plans during their working lives.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp088
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    File URL: http://mrdrc.isr.umich.edu/publications/Papers/pdf/wp088.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    Cited by:

    1. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2008. "Planning and Financial Literacy: How Do Women Fare?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 413-417, May.
    2. 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.
    3. Kohei Kubota & Mototsugu Fukushige, 2009. "Rational consumers," Discussion Papers in Economics and Business 09-15, Osaka University, Graduate School of Economics.
    4. Gabriel D. Carroll & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2009. "Optimal Defaults and Active Decisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1639-1674.
    5. Robert F. Martin Joseph W. Gruber, 2004. "Does Housing Wealth Make Us Less Equal? The Role of Durable Goods in the Distribution of Wealth," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 15, Econometric Society.
    6. Hurst, Erik & Willen, Paul, 2007. "Social security and unsecured debt," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(7-8), pages 1273-1297, August.
    7. Erik Hurst & Arthur Kennickell & Annamaria Lusardi & Francisco Torralba, 2005. "Precautionary Savings and the Importance of Business Owners," NBER Working Papers 11731, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Erik Hurst, 2008. "The Retirement of a Consumption Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 13789, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2007. "Financial literacy and retirement planning: New evidence from the Rand American Life Panel," CFS Working Paper Series 2007/33, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
    10. Bilbiie, Florin O., 2008. "Limited asset markets participation, monetary policy and (inverted) aggregate demand logic," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 140(1), pages 162-196, May.
    11. Joseph W. Gruber & Robert F. Martin, 2003. "Precautionary savings and the wealth distribution with illiquid durables," International Finance Discussion Papers 773, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    12. Annamaria Lusardi, 2008. "Household Saving Behavior: The Role of Financial Literacy, Information, and Financial Education Programs," NBER Working Papers 13824, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2017. "How Ordinary Consumers Make Complex Economic Decisions: Financial Literacy and Retirement Readiness," Quarterly Journal of Finance (QJF), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 7(03), pages 1-31, September.
    14. Reis, Ricardo, 2006. "Inattentive consumers," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(8), pages 1761-1800, November.
    15. Garry F. Barrett & Matthew Brzozowski, 2010. "Involuntary Retirement and the Resolution of the Retirement-Consumption Puzzle: Evidence from Australia," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 275, McMaster University.
    16. Jürgen Maurer & André Meier, 2008. "Smooth it Like the “Joneses?†Estimating Peer-Group Effects in Intertemporal Consumption Choice," MEA discussion paper series 08167, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
    17. repec:zbw:cfswop:wp200616 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Bilbiie, Florin Ovidiu, 2017. "The New Keynesian Cross: Understanding Monetary Policy with Hand-to-Mouth Households," CEPR Discussion Papers 11989, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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