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The Retirement-Consumption Puzzle: New Evidence from Personal Finances

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  • Arna Olafsson
  • Michaela Pagel

Abstract

This paper uses a detailed panel of individual spending, income, account balances, and credit limits from a personal finance management software provider to investigate how expenditures, liquid savings, and consumer debt change around retirement. The longitudinal nature of our data allows us to estimate individual fixed-effects regressions and thereby control for all selection on time-invariant (un)observables. We provide new evidence on the retirement-consumption puzzle and on whether individuals save adequately for retirement. We find that, upon retirement, individuals reduce their spending in both work-related and leisure categories. However, we feel that it is difficult to tell conclusively whether expenses are work related or not, even with the best data. We thus look at household finances and find that individuals delever upon retirement by reducing consumer debt and increasing liquid savings. We argue that these findings are difficult to rationalize via, for example, work-related expenses. A rational agent would save before retirement because of the expected fall in income, and dissave after retirement, rather than the exact opposite

Suggested Citation

  • Arna Olafsson & Michaela Pagel, 2018. "The Retirement-Consumption Puzzle: New Evidence from Personal Finances," NBER Working Papers 24405, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:24405
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

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    3. Torben M. Andersen & Joydeep Bhattacharya, 2021. "Why mandate young borrowers to contribute to their retirement accounts?," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 71(1), pages 115-149, February.
    4. Patrick Moran & Martin Orquote Connell & Cormac Orquote Dea & Francesca Parodi, 2021. "Heterogeneity in Household Spending and Well-being around Retirement," Working Papers wp427, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    5. Smith, Alec, 2019. "Lagged beliefs and reference-dependent utility," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 167(C), pages 331-340.
    6. Torben M. Andersen & Joydeep Bhattacharya & Qing Liu, 2021. "Reference‐dependent preferences, time inconsistency, and pay‐as‐you‐go pensions," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 59(3), pages 1008-1030, July.
    7. Kieren, Pascal & Weber, Martin, 2019. "When saving is not enough: The wealth decumulation decision in retirement," CFS Working Paper Series 634, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
    8. Pierre Emmanuel Weil, 2018. "Redistribution from the Cradle to the Grave: A Unified Approach to Heterogeneity in Age, Income and Wealth," 2018 Papers pwe433, Job Market Papers.
    9. Sean Hundtofte & Arna Olafsson & Michaela Pagel, 2019. "Credit Smoothing," NBER Working Papers 26354, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Torben M. Andersen & Joydeep Bhattacharya & Qing Liu, 2020. "Reference-Dependent Preferences, Time Inconsistency, and Unfunded Pensions," CESifo Working Paper Series 8260, CESifo.
    11. Melvin Stephens Jr. & Desmond Toohey, 2018. "Changes in Nutrient Intake at Retirement," NBER Working Papers 24621, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Moser, Christian & Olea de Souza e Silva, Pedro, 2019. "Optimal Paternalistic Savings Policies," MPRA Paper 95383, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Edouard Augustin Ribes, 2021. "How does education influence individuals' use of bequests as a long-term care insurance?," Working Papers hal-03498481, HAL.
    14. Glenn Abela & William Gatt, 2021. "Saving behaviour in Malta: Insights from the Household Budgetary Survey," CBM Working Papers WP/02/2021, Central Bank of Malta.
    15. Gaurav Khemka & Yifu Tang & Geoffrey J. Warren, 2021. "The ‘right’ level for the superannuation guarantee: identifying the key considerations," Accounting and Finance, Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand, vol. 61(3), pages 4435-4474, September.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies
    • J32 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Nonwage Labor Costs and Benefits; Retirement Plans; Private Pensions

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