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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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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w24405.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Pagel, Michaela, 2013. "Expectations-Based Reference-Dependent Life-Cycle Consumption," MPRA Paper 47138, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Campbell, John Y. & Viceira, Luis M., 2002. "Strategic Asset Allocation: Portfolio Choice for Long-Term Investors," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198296942.
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    Cited by:

    1. Moser, Christian & Olea de Souza e Silva, Pedro, 2019. "Optimal Paternalistic Savings Policies," MPRA Paper 95383, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. 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.
    3. Melvin Stephens Jr. & Desmond Toohey, 2018. "Changes in Nutrient Intake at Retirement," NBER Working Papers 24621, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    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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