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

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  • Erik Hurst

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. 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, 2003. "Grasshoppers, Ants, and Pre-Retirement Wealth: A Test of Permanent Income," NBER Working Papers 10098, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10098
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    3. Jonathan A. Parker, 2015. "Why Don't Households Smooth Consumption? Evidence from a 25 Million Dollar Experiment," NBER Working Papers 21369, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Richard Dunn, 2015. "Labor supply and household meal production among working adults in the Health and Retirement Survey," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 13(2), pages 437-457, June.
    5. Giovanni Mastrobuoni & Matthew Weinberg, 2009. "Heterogeneity in Intra-monthly Consumption Patterns, Self-Control, and Savings at Retirement," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 163-189, August.
    6. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2005. "Consumption versus Expenditure," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(5), pages 919-948, October.
    7. Reis, Ricardo, 2006. "Inattentive consumers," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(8), pages 1761-1800, November.
    8. 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.
    9. Finke, Michael S. & Huston, Sandra J., 2013. "Time preference and the importance of saving for retirement," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 23-34.
    10. Burman, Leonard E. & Coe, Norma B. & Dworsky, Michael & Gale, William G., 2012. "Effects of Public Policies on the Disposition of Pre-Retirement Lump-Sum Distributions: Rational and Behavioral Influences," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 65(4), pages 863-887, December.
    11. Gelman, Michael, 2021. "What drives heterogeneity in the marginal propensity to consume? Temporary shocks vs persistent characteristics," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 521-542.
    12. Schwerdt, Guido, 2005. "Why does consumption fall at retirement? Evidence from Germany," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 89(3), pages 300-305, December.
    13. Aylit Romm, 2015. "The Effect of Retirement Date Expectations on Pre-retirement Wealth Accumulation: The Role of Gender and Bargaining Power in Married US Households," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 36(4), pages 593-605, December.
    14. Li, Hongbin & Shi, Xinzheng & Wu, Binzhen, 2016. "The retirement consumption puzzle revisited: Evidence from the mandatory retirement policy in China," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 623-637.
    15. Lin He & Zongxia Liang & Yilun Song & Qi Ye, 2021. "Optimal Retirement Time and Consumption with the Variation in Habitual Persistence," Papers 2103.16800, arXiv.org.

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    JEL classification:

    • E2 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment
    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor

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