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The Effect of Pension Design on Employer Costs and Employee Retirement Choices: Evidence from Oregon

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  • John Chalmers
  • Woodrow T. Johnson
  • Jonathan Reuter

Abstract

Oregon's Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) is a rich setting in which to study the effect of pension design on employer costs and employee retirement-timing decisions. PERS pays retirees the maximum benefit calculated using three formulas that can be characterized as defined benefit (DB), defined contribution (DC), and a combination of DB and DC. From the employer's perspective, we show that this "maximum benefit" calculation is costly. Average ex post retirement benefits are 54% higher than they if had been calculated using only the DB formula. Monte Carlo simulations verify that the higher cost could have been predicted at the start of our sample period. From the employee's perspective, we show that plan design distorts the retirement-timing decision: employees receiving DC benefits are significantly more likely to retire before the normal retirement age than employees receiving DB benefits. Exploiting two sources of exogenous variation in the level of the DC benefit, we show that employees respond to within-year variation in their retirement incentives and, consistent with peer effects, that they respond more strongly to these incentives when more of their coworkers face similar incentives. Finally, consistent with the emerging literature on financial mistakes by households, we show that a small but significant fraction of retirees would benefit from shifting their retirements by as little as one month.

Suggested Citation

  • John Chalmers & Woodrow T. Johnson & Jonathan Reuter, 2012. "The Effect of Pension Design on Employer Costs and Employee Retirement Choices: Evidence from Oregon," NBER Working Papers 18517, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18517
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    Cited by:

    1. Touria Jaaidane & Robert J. Gary-Bobo, 2015. "The Evaluation of Pension Reforms in the Public Sector: A Case Study of the Paris Subway Drivers," CESifo Working Paper Series 5431, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Blaufus, Kay & Milde, Michael, 2018. "Learning to save tax-efficiently: Tax misperceptions and the effect of informational tax nudges on retirement savings," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 225, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.
    3. Clark, Robert L. & Hanson, Emma & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2016. "Lessons for public pensions from Utah's move to pension choice," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(03), pages 285-310, July.
    4. Gustafson, Matthew T., 2017. "The market sensitivity of retirement and defined contribution pensions: Evidence from the public sector," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 1-13.
    5. Louise Grogan & Fraser Summerfield, 2014. "Government Transfers, Work and Occupational Identity: Evidence from the Russian Old-Age Pension," Working Paper series 22_14, Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis.
    6. J. Michael Collins & Carly Urban, 2016. "The Role Of Information On Retirement Planning: Evidence From A Field Study," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 54(4), pages 1860-1872, October.
    7. Davidoff, Thomas & Gerhard, Patrick & Post, Thomas, 2017. "Reverse mortgages: What homeowners (don’t) know and how it matters," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 151-171.
    8. Mugerman, Yevgeny & Sade, Orly & Shayo, Moses, 2014. "Long term savings decisions: Financial reform, peer effects and ethnicity," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 235-253.
    9. Niels Vermeer, 2016. "Age Anchors and the Expected Retirement Age: An Experimental Study," De Economist, Springer, vol. 164(3), pages 255-279, September.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies

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