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Retirement Implications of a Low Wage Growth, Low Real Interest Rate Economy

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  • Jason Scott
  • John B. Shoven
  • Sita Slavov
  • John G. Watson

Abstract

We examine the implications of persistent low real interest rates and wage growth rates on individuals nearing retirement. We begin by reviewing the concept of r star – the long-term real, safe interest rate that is neither expansionary nor contractionary – and presenting recent estimates suggesting that this value has declined. We then examine the implications of low returns and low wage growth for individuals currently aged 45 and 55. We find that low returns and low wage growth have substantial welfare effects, with compensating variations that are often in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Low returns increase optimal Social Security claiming ages and the marginal benefit of working longer, while low wage growth decreases the marginal benefit of working longer. Low economy-wide wage growth has a much larger welfare effect than low individual wage growth due to wage indexation of the initial benefit and the progressivity of the Social Security benefit formula. When individual wage growth alone is low, wage indexation is unchanged, and the progressivity of the benefit formula provides insurance. When economy-wide wage growth is low, wage indexation is less generous and there is no insurance benefit from progressivity as average wages fall along with individual wages.

Suggested Citation

  • Jason Scott & John B. Shoven & Sita Slavov & John G. Watson, 2019. "Retirement Implications of a Low Wage Growth, Low Real Interest Rate Economy," NBER Working Papers 25556, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:25556
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gustman, Alan L. & Steinmeier, Thomas L., 2015. "Effects of social security policies on benefit claiming, retirement and saving," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 51-62.
    2. John B. Taylor & Volker Wieland, 2016. "Finding the Equilibrium Real Interest Rate in a Fog of Policy Deviations," Business Economics, Palgrave Macmillan;National Association for Business Economics, vol. 51(3), pages 147-154, July.
    3. Haan, Peter & Prowse, Victoria, 2014. "Longevity, life-cycle behavior and pension reform," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 178(P3), pages 582-601.
    4. Milton Friedman, 1957. "Introduction to "A Theory of the Consumption Function"," NBER Chapters, in: A Theory of the Consumption Function, pages 1-6, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Thomas Laubach & John C. Williams, 2003. "Measuring the Natural Rate of Interest," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 1063-1070, November.
    6. Gila Bronshtein & Jason Scott & John B. Shoven & Sita N. Slavov, 2016. "Leaving Big Money on the Table: Arbitrage Opportunities in Delaying Social Security," NBER Working Papers 22853, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Steven A. Sass & Wei Sun & Anthony Webb, 2007. "Why Do Married Men Claim Social Security Benefits So Early? Ignorance or Caddishness?," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2007-17, Center for Retirement Research, revised Oct 2007.
    8. Milton Friedman, 1957. "A Theory of the Consumption Function," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number frie57-1, May.
    9. Shoven, John B. & Slavov, Sita Nataraj, 2014. "Does it pay to delay social security?," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13(2), pages 121-144, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jason S. Scott & John B. Shoven & Sita N. Slavov & John G. Watson, 2020. "Can Low Retirement Savings Be Rationalized?," NBER Working Papers 26784, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • 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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