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Borrowing from the Future: 401(k) Plan Loans and Loan Defaults

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  • Timothy (Jun) Lu
  • Olivia S. Mitchell
  • Stephen P. Utkus
  • Jean A. Young

Abstract

Tax-qualified retirement plans seek to promote saving for retirement, yet most employers permit pre- retirement access by letting 401(k) participants borrow plan assets. This paper examines who borrows and why, and who defaults on their loans. Our administrative dataset tracks several hundred plans over 5 years, showing that 20% borrow at any given time, and almost 40% do at some point over five years. Employer policies influence borrowing behavior, in that workers are more likely to borrow and borrow more in aggregate, when a plan permits multiple loans. We estimate loan default “leakage” at $6 billion annually, more than prior studies.

Suggested Citation

  • Timothy (Jun) Lu & Olivia S. Mitchell & Stephen P. Utkus & Jean A. Young, 2015. "Borrowing from the Future: 401(k) Plan Loans and Loan Defaults," NBER Working Papers 21102, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21102
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    Cited by:

    1. Sumit Agarwal & Jessica Pan & Wenlan Qian, 2020. "Age of Decision: Pension Savings Withdrawal and Consumption and Debt Response," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 66(1), pages 43-69, January.
    2. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell & Noemi Oggero, 2020. "Debt and Financial Vulnerability on the Verge of Retirement," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 52(5), pages 1005-1034, August.
    3. Lu, Timothy (Jun) & Tang, Ning, 2019. "Social interactions in asset allocation decisions: Evidence from 401(k) pension plan investors," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 159(C), pages 1-14.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D04 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Policy: Formulation; Implementation; Evaluation
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies

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