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The Retirement of a Consumption Puzzle

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  • Erik Hurst

Abstract

This paper summarizes five facts that have emerged from the recent literature on consumption behavior during retirement. Collectively, the recent literature has shown that there is no puzzle with respect to the spending patterns of most households as they transition into retirement. In particular, the literature has shown that there is substantial heterogeneity in spending changes at retirement across consumption categories. The declines in spending during retirement for the average household are limited to the categories of food and work related expenses. Spending in nearly all other categories of non-durable expenditure remains constant or increases. Moreover, even though food spending declines during retirement, actual food intake remains constant. The literature also shows that there is substantial heterogeneity across households in the change in expenditure associated with retirement. Much of this heterogeneity, however, can be explained by households involuntarily retiring due to deteriorating health. Overall, the literature shows that the standard model of lifecycle consumption augmented with home production and uncertain health shocks does well in explaining the consumption patterns of most households as they transition into retirement.

Suggested Citation

  • Erik Hurst, 2008. "The Retirement of a Consumption Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 13789, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13789
    Note: AG EFG LS PE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Fisher, Jonathan D. & Johnson, David S. & Marchand, Joseph & Smeeding, Timothy M. & Torrey, Barbara Boyle, 2008. "The retirement consumption conundrum: Evidence from a consumption survey," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 99(3), pages 482-485, June.
    3. John Laitner & Dan Silverman, 2005. "Estimating Life-Cycle Parameters from Consumption Behavior at Retirement," NBER Working Papers 11163, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Steven J. Haider & Melvin Stephens, 2007. "Is There a Retirement-Consumption Puzzle? Evidence Using Subjective Retirement Expectations," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(2), pages 247-264, May.
    5. Mark B. McClellan, 1998. "Health Events, Health Insurance, and Labor Supply: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Chapters, in: Frontiers in the Economics of Aging, pages 301-350, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Lundberg, Shelly & Startza, Richard & Stillman, Steven, 2003. "The retirement-consumption puzzle: a marital bargaining approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(5-6), pages 1199-1218, May.
    7. 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.
    8. Schwerdt, Guido, 2005. "Why does consumption fall at retirement? Evidence from Germany," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 89(3), pages 300-305, December.
    9. Sarah Smith, 2006. "The Retirement-Consumption Puzzle and Involuntary Early Retirement: Evidence from the British Household Panel Survey," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(510), pages 130-148, March.
    10. Lundberg, Shelly & Startza, Richard & Stillman, Steven, 2003. "The retirement-consumption puzzle: a marital bargaining approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(5-6), pages 1199-1218, May.
    11. Raffaelle Miniaci & Chiara Monfardini & Guglielmo Weber, 2003. "Is there a retirement consumption puzzle in Italy?," IFS Working Papers W03/14, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    12. Michael D. Hurd & Susann Rohwedder, 2006. "Some Answers to The Retirement-Consumption Puzzle," Working Papers WR-342, RAND Corporation.
    13. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2004. "Consumption vs. Expenditure," NBER Working Papers 10307, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2007. "Retirement Consumption: Insights from a Survey," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(2), pages 265-274, May.
    15. 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.
    16. 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.
    17. 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.
    18. 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.
    19. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2013. "Deconstructing Life Cycle Expenditure," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 121(3), pages 437-492.
    20. Heckman, James J, 1974. "Life Cycle Consumption and Labor Supply: An Explanation of the Relationship Between Income and Consumption Over the Life Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(1), pages 188-194, March.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies

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