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Rise of 401(k) Plans, Lifetime Earnings, and Wealth at Retirement

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Listed:
  • James Poterba
  • Steven F. Venti
  • David A. Wise

Abstract

Saving through private pensions has been an important complement to Social Security in providing for the financial needs of older Americans. In the past twenty five years, however, there has been a dramatic change in private retirement saving. Personal retirement accounts have replaced defined benefit pension plans as the primary means of retirement saving. It is important to understand how this change will affect the wealth of future retirees. The personal retirement account system is not yet mature. A person who retired in 2000, for example, could have contributed to a 401(k) for at most 18 years and the typical 401(k) participant had only contributed for a little over seven years. Nonetheless, current 401(k) assets are quite large. We consider in this paper the implications of rising 401(k) saving through the year 2040. In particular, we emphasize the growth of the sum of Social Security wealth and 401(k) assets for families in each decile of the Social Security wealth distribution. Our projections show a substantial increase between 2000 and 2040 in the sum of these retirement assets in each wealth decile. We also consider the accumulation of 401(k) assets by families in different deciles of the distribution of lifetime earnings.

Suggested Citation

  • James Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2007. "Rise of 401(k) Plans, Lifetime Earnings, and Wealth at Retirement," NBER Working Papers 13091, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13091
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2009. "The Decline of Defined Benefit Retirement Plans and Asset Flows," NBER Chapters,in: Social Security Policy in a Changing Environment, pages 333-379 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti, 2001. "Preretirement Cashouts and Foregone Retirement Saving: Implications for 401(k) Asset Accumulation," NBER Chapters,in: Themes in the Economics of Aging, pages 23-58 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2008. "New Estimates of the Future Path of 401(k) Assets," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 22, pages 43-80 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti, 2004. "The Transition to Personal Accounts and Increasing Retirement Wealth: Macro- and Microevidence," NBER Chapters,in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 17-80 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti, 1998. "Implications of Rising Personal Retirement Saving," NBER Chapters,in: Frontiers in the Economics of Aging, pages 125-172 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. James Poterba & Joshua Rauh & Steven Venti & David Wise, 2007. "Defined Contribution Plans, Defined Benefit Plans, and the Accumulation of Retirement Wealth," NBER Chapters,in: Public Policy and Retirement, Trans-Atlantic Public Economics Seminar (TAPES), pages 2062-2086 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Tang, Ning & Mitchell, Olivia S. & Mottola, Gary R. & Utkus, Stephen P., 2010. "The efficiency of sponsor and participant portfolio choices in 401(k) plans," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 1073-1085, December.
    3. James Poterba & Steven Venti & David A. Wise, 2007. "The Changing Landscape of Pensions in the United States," NBER Working Papers 13381, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Jeffrey Thompson & Timothy M. Smeeding, 2010. "Recent Trends in the Distribution of Income: Labor, Wealth and More Complete Measures of Well Being," Working Papers wp225, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
    5. Christopher Tamborini & ChangHwan Kim & Arthur Sakamoto, 2015. "Education and Lifetime Earnings in the United States," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 52(4), pages 1383-1407, August.
    6. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2008. "New Estimates of the Future Path of 401(k) Assets," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 22, pages 43-80 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Ning Tang & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2008. "The Efficiency of Pension Plan Investment Menus: Investment Choices in Defined Contribution Pension Plans," Working Papers wp176, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    8. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2010. "Demographic Trends, Housing Equity, and the Financial Security of Future Retirees," NBER Chapters,in: Demography and the Economy, pages 227-287 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G23 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Non-bank Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Institutional Investors
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • J32 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Nonwage Labor Costs and Benefits; Retirement Plans; Private Pensions

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