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Optimal Life-Cycle Investing with Flexible Labor Supply: A Welfare Analysis of Life-Cycle Funds

Author

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  • Francisco J. Gomes
  • Laurence J. Kotlikoff
  • Luis M. Viceira

Abstract

We investigate optimal consumption, asset accumulation and portfolio decisions in a realistically calibrated life-cycle model with flexible labor supply. Our framework allows for wage rate uncertainly, variable labor supply, social security benefits and portfolio choice over safe bonds and risky equities. Our analysis reinforces prior findings that equities are the preferred asset for young households, with the optimal share of equities generally declining prior to retirement. However, variable labor materially alters pre-retirement portfolio choice by significantly raising optimal equity holdings. Using this model, we also investigate the welfare costs of constraining portfolio allocations over the life cycle to mimic popular default investment choices in defined-contribution pension plans, such as stable value funds, balanced funds, and life-cycle (or target date) funds. We find that life-cycle funds designed to match the risk tolerance and investment horizon of investors have small welfare costs. All other choices, including life-cycle funds which do not match investors' risk tolerance, can have substantial welfare costs.

Suggested Citation

  • Francisco J. Gomes & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Luis M. Viceira, 2008. "Optimal Life-Cycle Investing with Flexible Labor Supply: A Welfare Analysis of Life-Cycle Funds," NBER Working Papers 13966, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13966
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Hamish Low, 2005. "Self-Insurance in a Life-Cycle Model of Labor Supply and Savings," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 8(4), pages 945-975, October.
    2. Bodie, Zvi & Merton, Robert C. & Samuelson, William F., 1992. "Labor supply flexibility and portfolio choice in a life cycle model," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 16(3-4), pages 427-449.
    3. Eugene F. Fama & Kenneth R. French, 2002. "The Equity Premium," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 57(2), pages 637-659, April.
    4. 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.
    5. Robert M. Dammon & Chester S. Spatt & Harold H. Zhang, 2004. "Optimal Asset Location and Allocation with Taxable and Tax-Deferred Investing," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 59(3), pages 999-1037, June.
    6. Bodie, Zvi & Detemple, Jerome B. & Otruba, Susanne & Walter, Stephan, 2004. "Optimal consumption-portfolio choices and retirement planning," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 28(6), pages 1115-1148, March.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G2 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services
    • G23 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Non-bank Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Institutional Investors
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions

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