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The Retirement Consumption Puzzle: Actual Spending Change in Panel Data

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  • Michael D. Hurd
  • Susann Rohwedder

Abstract

The simple one-good model of life-cycle consumption requires that consumption be continuous over retirement; yet prior research based on partial measures of consumption or on synthetic panels indicates that spending drops at retirement, a result that has been called the retirement-consumption puzzle. Using panel data on total spending, nondurable spending and food spending, we find that spending declines at small rates over retirement, at rates that could be explained by mechanisms such as the cessation of work-related expenses, unexpected retirement due to a health shock or by the substitution of time for spending. In the low-wealth population where spending did decline at higher rates, the main explanation for the decline appears to be a high rate of early retirement due to poor health. We conclude that at the population level there is no retirement consumption puzzle in our data, and that in subpopulations where there were substantial declines, conventional economic theory can provide the main explanation.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael D. Hurd & Susann Rohwedder, 2008. "The Retirement Consumption Puzzle: Actual Spending Change in Panel Data," NBER Working Papers 13929, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13929
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    1. Erich Battistin & Agar Brugiavini & Enrico Rettore & Guglielmo Weber, 2009. "The Retirement Consumption Puzzle: Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(5), pages 2209-2226, December.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. David M. Blau, 2008. "Retirement and Consumption in a Life Cycle Model," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26, pages 35-71.
    5. 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.
    6. F. Thomas Juster & Richard Suzman, 1995. " An Overview of the Health and Retirement Study," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30, pages s7-s56.
    7. 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.
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    1. The Retirement Consumption Puzzle: Actual Spending Change in Panel Data
      by Liam Delaney in Geary Behaviour Centre on 2009-08-07 20:54:00

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Kolsrud, Jonas & Landais, Camille & Spinnewijn, Johannes, 2017. "Studying Consumption Patterns using Registry Data: Lessons From Swedish Administrative Data," CEPR Discussion Papers 12402, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. repec:wfo:wstudy:43938 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Robert Hauser & David Weir, 2010. "Recent developments in longitudinal studies of aging in the United States," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 47(1), pages 111-130, March.
    4. Mark A. Aguiar & Erik Hurst & Loukas Karabarbounis, 2011. "Time Use During Recessions," NBER Working Papers 17259, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Nicolas Moreau & Elena Stancanelli, 2013. "Household Consumption at Retirement: A Regression Discontinuity Study on French," Documents de travail du Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne 13072, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1), Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne.
    6. Bonsang, Eric & van Soest, Arthur, 2015. "Home Production and Retirement in Couples: A Panel Data Analysis," IZA Discussion Papers 9156, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. 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.
    8. Nicolas Moreau & Elena Stancanelli, 2015. "Household Consumption at Retirement : A Regression Discontinuity Study on French Data," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 117-118, pages 253-276.
    9. Stephens, Melvin & Unayama, Takashi, 2012. "The impact of retirement on household consumption in Japan," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 62-83.
    10. Nicolas Moreau & Elena Stancanelli, 2013. "Household Consumption at Retirement: A Regression Discontinuity Study on French Data," Post-Print halshs-00881215, HAL.
    11. Christine Mayrhuber & Gerhard Rünstler & Thomas Url & Werner Eichhorst & Michael J. Kendzia & Maarten Gerard & Connie Nielsen, 2011. "Pension Systems in the EU. Contingent Liabilities and Assets in the Public and Private Sector," WIFO Studies, WIFO, number 43938, january-j.
    12. repec:kap:decono:v:165:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10645-017-9301-z is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Raffaele Miniaci & Chiara Monfardini & Guglielmo Weber, 2010. "How does consumption change upon retirement?," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 38(2), pages 257-280, April.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies

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