IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/10260.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Are Americans Saving "Optimally" for Retirement?

Author

Listed:
  • John Karl Scholz
  • Ananth Seshadri
  • Surachai Khitatrakun

Abstract

This paper examines the degree to which Americans are saving optimally for retirement. Our standard for assessing optimality comes from a life-cycle model that incorporates uncertain lifetimes, uninsurable earnings and medical expenses, progressive taxation, government transfers, and pension and social security benefit functions derived from rich household data. We solve every household''s decision problem from death to starting age and then use the decision rules in conjunction with earnings histories to make predictions about wealth in 1992. Ours is the first study to compare, household by household, wealth predictions that arise from a life-cycle model that incorporates earnings histories for a nationally representative sample. The results, based on data from the Health and Retirement Study, are striking we find that the model is capable of accounting for more than 80 percent of the 1992 cross-sectional variation in wealth. Fewer than 20 percent of households have less wealth than their optimal targets, and the wealth deficit of those who are undersaving is generally small.

Suggested Citation

  • John Karl Scholz & Ananth Seshadri & Surachai Khitatrakun, 2004. "Are Americans Saving "Optimally" for Retirement?," NBER Working Papers 10260, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10260
    Note: AG PE
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w10260.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Ellen R. McGrattan & Edward C. Prescott, 2003. "Average Debt and Equity Returns: Puzzling?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 392-397, May.
    2. Steven J. Davis & Felix Kubler & Paul Willen, 2006. "Borrowing Costs and the Demand for Equity over the Life Cycle," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(2), pages 348-362, May.
    3. Banks, James & Blundell, Richard & Tanner, Sarah, 1998. "Is There a Retirement-Savings Puzzle?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 769-788, September.
    4. Erik Hurst & James P. Ziliak, 2006. "Do Welfare Asset Limits Affect Household Saving?: Evidence from Welfare Reform," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(1).
    5. Jonathan Gruber & Aaron Yelowitz, 1999. "Public Health Insurance and Private Savings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(6), pages 1249-1274, December.
    6. Deaton, Angus, 1991. "Saving and Liquidity Constraints," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(5), pages 1221-1248, September.
    7. Geweke, John & Keane, Michael P & Runkle, David, 1994. "Alternative Computational Approaches to Inference in the Multinomial Probit Model," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 76(4), pages 609-632, November.
    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. Tauchen, George, 1986. "Finite state markov-chain approximations to univariate and vector autoregressions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 177-181.
    10. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Jonathan A. Parker, 2002. "Consumption Over the Life Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(1), pages 47-89, January.
    11. Hubbard, R Glenn & Skinner, Jonathan & Zeldes, Stephen P, 1995. "Precautionary Saving and Social Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(2), pages 360-399, April.
    12. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2004. "Aging and Housing Equity: Another Look," NBER Chapters, in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 127-180, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Hamermesh, Daniel S, 1984. "Consumption during Retirement: The Missing Link in the Life Cycle," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 66(1), pages 1-7, February.
    14. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1994. "Uninsured Idiosyncratic Risk and Aggregate Saving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(3), pages 659-684.
    15. Eric M. Engen & William G. Gale & Cori R. Uccello, 1999. "The Adequacy of Retirement Saving," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 30(2), pages 65-188.
    16. Michael D. Hurd & Susann Rohwedder, 2003. "The Retirement-Consumption Puzzle Anticipated and Actual Declines in Spending at Retirement," Working Papers DRU-3009, RAND Corporation.
    17. Ellen R. McGrattan & Edward C. Prescott, 2005. "Taxes, Regulations, and the Value of U.S. and U.K. Corporations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(3), pages 767-796.
    18. Christopher D. Carroll, 1997. "Buffer-Stock Saving and the Life Cycle/Permanent Income Hypothesis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 1-55.
    19. Jeffrey R. Brown & Amy Finkelstein, 2008. "The Interaction of Public and Private Insurance: Medicaid and the Long-Term Care Insurance Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 1083-1102, June.
    20. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2004. "Consumption vs. Expenditure," NBER Working Papers 10307, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. Kotlikoff, Laurence J & Spivak, Avia & Summers, Lawrence H, 1982. "The Adequacy of Savings," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 1056-1069, December.
    22. Unknown, 1986. "Letters," Choices: The Magazine of Food, Farm, and Resource Issues, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 1(4), pages 1-9.
    23. Erik Hurst & James P. Ziliak, 2001. "Welfare Reform and Household Saving," JCPR Working Papers 234, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    24. Christopher D. Carroll, 2001. "A Theory of the Consumption Function, with and without Liquidity Constraints," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 23-45, Summer.
    25. Gouveia, Miguel & Strauss, Robert P., 1994. "Effective Federal Individual Tax Functions: An Exploratory Empirical Analysis," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 47(2), pages 317-339, June.
    26. 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.
    27. B. Douglas Bernheim & Jonathan Skinner & Steven Weinberg, 2001. "What Accounts for the Variation in Retirement Wealth among U.S. Households?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 832-857, September.
    28. Michael G. Palumbo, 1999. "Uncertain Medical Expenses and Precautionary Saving Near the End of the Life Cycle," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(2), pages 395-421.
    29. 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.
    30. Gouveia, Miguel & Strauss, Robert P., 1994. "Effective Federal Individual Tax Functions: An Exploratory Empirical Analysis," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 47(2), pages 317-39, June.
    31. Karen E. Dynan & Jonathan Skinner & Stephen P. Zeldes, 2004. "Do the Rich Save More?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(2), pages 397-444, April.
    32. David A. Wise, 2004. "Introduction to "Perspectives on the Economics of Aging"," NBER Chapters, in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 1-16, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    33. David A. Wise, 2004. "Perspectives on the Economics of Aging," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number wise04-1, June.
    34. Erik Hurst, 2003. "Grasshoppers, Ants, and Pre-Retirement Wealth: A Test of Permanent Income," NBER Working Papers 10098, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Ivan Vidangos, 2009. "Household welfare, precautionary saving, and social insurance under multiple sources of risk," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2009-14, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    2. Mariacristina De Nardi & Eric French & John Bailey Jones, 2016. "Savings After Retirement: A Survey," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 8(1), pages 177-204, October.
    3. B. Douglas Bernheim & Jonathan Skinner & Steven Weinberg, 2001. "What Accounts for the Variation in Retirement Wealth among U.S. Households?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 832-857, September.
    4. Martin Browning & Thomas F. Crossley, 2001. "The Life-Cycle Model of Consumption and Saving," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 3-22, Summer.
    5. Sattinger, Michael, 2011. "The Markov consumption problem," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(4-5), pages 409-416.
    6. A Lusardi & J Skinner & S Venti, 2001. "Saving puzzles and saving policies in the United States," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(1), pages 95-115, Spring.
    7. Francisco Gomes & Michael Haliassos & Tarun Ramadorai, 2021. "Household Finance," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 59(3), pages 919-1000, September.
    8. Jung, Juergen & Tran, Chung & Chambers, Matthew, 2017. "Aging and health financing in the U.S.: A general equilibrium analysis," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 428-462.
    9. 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.
    10. Mariacristina De Nardi & Eric French & John Bailey Jones & Rory McGee, 2021. "Why Do Couples and Singles Save During Retirement?," Richmond Fed Economic Brief, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, vol. 21(09), pages 1-65, May.
    11. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2013. "Deconstructing Life Cycle Expenditure," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 121(3), pages 437-492.
    12. Loretti I. Dobrescu, 2015. "To Love or to Pay: Savings and Health Care in Older Age," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 50(1), pages 254-299.
    13. Midori Wakabayashi, 2008. "The retirement consumption puzzle in Japan," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 21(4), pages 983-1005, October.
    14. Fulford, Scott L., 2015. "The surprisingly low importance of income uncertainty for precaution," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 151-171.
    15. Mariacristina De Nardi & Eric French & John B. Jones, 2010. "Why Do the Elderly Save? The Role of Medical Expenses," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(1), pages 39-75, February.
    16. Francis, Johanna L., 2009. "Wealth and the capitalist spirit," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 394-408, September.
    17. Fang Yang, 2005. "Accounting for the heterogeneity in retirement wealth," Working Papers 638, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    18. John Laitner & Dan Silverman & Dmitriy Stolyarov, 2018. "The Role of Annuitized Wealth in Post-retirement Behavior," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 71-117, July.
    19. Andrew Au & Olivia S. Mitchell & John W.R. Phillips, 2005. "Saving Shortfalls and Delayed Retirement," Working Papers wp094, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    20. Karsten Jeske & Sagiri Kitao, 2005. "Health insurance and tax policy," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2005-14, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10260. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.