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Riester Pensions in Germany: Design, Dynamics, Targetting Success and Crowding-In

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  • Axel H. Börsch-Supan
  • Michela Coppola
  • Anette Reil-Held

Abstract

Riester pensions are voluntary, but heavily subsidized private pension schemes in Germany. They were designed as a matching defined contribution scheme to fill the emerging "pension gap" that is being generated by the gradually declining generosity of the public pay-as-you-go pensions in response to population aging. This paper investigates how the uptake of the recently introduced "Riester pensions" depends on the state-provided saving incentives and how well the targeting to families and low-income households has worked in practice. It documents the costs of the scheme, and collects circumstantial evidence on displacement effects between saving for old-age provision and other purposes. After a slow start and several design changes, Riester pension plans took off very quickly. While saving incentives were effective in reaching parents, they were somewhat less successful in attracting low-income earners, although Riester pensions exhibit a more equal pattern by income than occupational pensions and unsubsidized private pension plans. Riester pension savings totaled €9.4bn in 2010 with an associated cost of €3.5bn. One average one Euro of subsidies is thus associated with 2 Euros of households' own Riester saving. There is no evidence that Riester pensions have crowded out other saving. While households who plan to purchase housing and who attach high importance to a bequest motive are less likely to have a Riester pension, several regression results show that occupational pensions and other forms of private pensions act as complements rather than as substitutes. Aggregate national saving has increased since the introduction of Riester pensions.

Suggested Citation

  • Axel H. Börsch-Supan & Michela Coppola & Anette Reil-Held, 2012. "Riester Pensions in Germany: Design, Dynamics, Targetting Success and Crowding-In," NBER Working Papers 18014, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18014
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Lamla, Bettina & Coppola, Michela, 2013. "Is it all about access? Perceived access to occupational pensions in Germany," MEA discussion paper series 201312, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
    2. Kluth, Sebastian, 2014. "Should I Stay or Should I Go? The Role of Actuarial Reduction Rates in Individual Retirement Planning in Germany," MEA discussion paper series 201409, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
    3. Axel Börsch-Supan & Tabea Bucher-Koenen & Michela Coppola & Bettina Lamla, 2015. "Savings In Times Of Demographic Change: Lessons From The German Experience," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(4), pages 807-829, September.
    4. Bucher-Koenen, Tabea & Koenen, Johannes, 2015. "Do Seemingly Smarter Consumers Get Better Advice?," MEA discussion paper series 201501, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
    5. repec:eee:pubeco:v:158:y:2018:i:c:p:168-179 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. John Beshears & James J. Choi & Joshua Hurwitz & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2015. "Liquidity in Retirement Savings Systems: An International Comparison," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(5), pages 420-425, May.
    7. Dolls, Mathias & Doerrenberg, Philipp & Peichl, Andreas & Stichnoth, Holger, 2018. "Do retirement savings increase in response to information about retirement and expected pensions?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 158(C), pages 168-179.
    8. Mathias Dolls & Philipp Doerrenberg & Andreas Peichl & Holger Stichnoth, 2016. "Do Savings Increase in Response to Salient Information about Retirement and Expected Pensions?," NBER Working Papers 22684, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Becker, Gideon, 2014. "The portfolio structure of German households: A multinomial fractional response approach with unobserved heterogeneity," University of Tuebingen Working Papers in Economics and Finance 74, University of Tuebingen, Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences.
    10. Axel Börsch-Supan & Christopher Quinn, 2015. "Taxing Pensions and Retirement Benefits in Germany," CESifo Working Paper Series 5636, CESifo Group Munich.
    11. Martin Werding, 2016. "One Pillar Crumbling, the Others Too Short: Old-Age Provision in Germany," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 237(1), pages 13-21, August.
    12. Börsch-Supan, A. & Härtl, K. & Leite, D.N., 2016. "Social Security and Public Insurance," Handbook of the Economics of Population Aging, Elsevier.
    13. Bettina Lamla, 2013. "Family background and the decision to provide for old age: a siblings approach," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 40(3), pages 483-504, August.
    14. Kluth, Sebastian, 2014. "Should I Stay or Should I Go? The Role of Actuarial Reduction Rates in Individual Retirement Planning in Germany," Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100413, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    15. repec:taf:irapec:v:31:y:2017:i:6:p:811-831 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Christoph Metzger, 2017. "Who is saving privately for retirement and how much? New evidence for Germany," International Review of Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(6), pages 811-831, November.
    17. Börsch-Supan, Axel & Quinn, Christopher, 2015. "Taxing pensions and retirement benefits in Germany," MEA discussion paper series 201510, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • 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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