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Individual Risk and Intergenerational Risk Sharing in an Investment-Based Social Security Program

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  • Martin Feldstein
  • Elena Ranguelova

Abstract

This paper examines the risk aspects of a fully phased-in investment-based defined contribution Social Security plan. Individuals save a fraction of wages in a Personal Retirement Account (PRA) invested in a 60:40 equity-debt mix and receive a similarly invested variable annuity from age 67. The value of the portfolio follows a random walk with historic (1946-1995) mean log real return of 5.5 percent and standard deviation of 12.5 percent. We study 10,000 stochastic distributions of this process for the 80 year experience from 1998 to 2077. With a nonstochastic 5.5 percent rate of return, individuals could purchase the future benefits promised in the current Social Security law (the benchmark' level of benefits) by saving 3.1 percent of earnings, just one-sixth of the payroll tax that Social Security actuaries project will be needed in the paygo system. A higher saving rate provides a cushion' that reduces the risk of unacceptably low benefits. For example, saving 6 percent implies a median annuity at age 67 or 2.1 times the benchmark benefits and only a 17 percent chance that the annuity is less than the benchmark. In 95 percent of the potential investment experience the annuity exceeds 61 percent of the benchmark benefit. With a 9 percent saving rate (half of the tax rate required in a pay- as-you-go system), there is only a 6 percent chance that the annuity is less than the benchmark and in 95 percent of the potential investment experience the annuity exceeds 92 percent of the benchmark benefit. We also study a modified plan in which retirees face no risk of receiveing less than the benchmark benefit because the government provides a conditional pension transfer to any retiree whose annuity is less in any year than the benchmark level of benefits. With a six percent saving rate, a conditional transfer is required in only about 40 percent of the simulations. The expected value of the transfers is substantially less than the expected incremental corporate tax revenue that results from the Personal Retirement Account saving. Additional tax revenue is needed in fewer than one percent of the simulations. In short, a pure defined contribution plan, with a saving rate equal to one third of the long-run projected payroll tax, invested in a 60:40 equity-debt Personal Retirement Account could provide a retirement annuity that is likely to be substantially more than the benchmark benefit while exposing the retiree to relatively little risk that the annuity will be less than the benchmark. Even this risk can be completely eliminated by a conditional guarantee plan that imposed only a very small risk on future taxpayers.

Suggested Citation

  • Martin Feldstein & Elena Ranguelova, 1998. "Individual Risk and Intergenerational Risk Sharing in an Investment-Based Social Security Program," NBER Working Papers 6839, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6839
    Note: AG PE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Peter Diamond, 1998. "The Economics of Social Security Reform," NBER Working Papers 6719, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Feldstein, Martin, 1996. "The Missing Piece in Policy Analysis: Social Security Reform," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 1-14, May.
    3. Mehra, Rajnish & Prescott, Edward C., 1985. "The equity premium: A puzzle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 145-161, March.
    4. Shiller, Robert J., 1999. "Social security and institutions for intergenerational, intragenerational, and international risk-sharing," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 165-204, June.
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    6. Feldstein, Martin & Liebman, Jeffrey B., 2002. "Social security," Handbook of Public Economics,in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 32, pages 2245-2324 Elsevier.
    7. Peter Diamond, 2004. "Social Security," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 1-24, March.
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    15. Boskin, Michael J. & Kotlikoff, Lawrence J. & Puffert, Douglas J. & Shoven, John B., 1986. "Social Security: A Financial Appraisal Across and Within Generations," CEPR Publications 244432, Stanford University, Center for Economic Policy Research.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Martin S. Feldstein & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2002. "The Distributional Effects of an Investment-Based Social Security System," NBER Chapters,in: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform, pages 263-326 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Martin Feldstein & Elena Ranguelova & Andrew Samwick, 2001. "The Transition to Investment-Based Social Security When Portfolio Returns and Capital Profitability Are Uncertain," NBER Chapters,in: Risk Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform, pages 41-90 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Martin Feldstein & Elena Ranguelova, 2001. "Accumulated Pension Collars: A Market Approach to Reducing the Risk of Investment-Based Social Security Reform," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 15, pages 149-166 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Martin Feldstein, 2002. "Introduction: An American Perspective," NBER Chapters,in: Social Security Pension Reform in Europe, pages 1-8 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Rodrigue Mendez & Lionel Ragot, 2010. "Quel avenir pour le Fonds de réserve pour les retraites ?," Économie et Prévision, Programme National Persée, vol. 194(3), pages 57-78.
    6. Javed I. Ahmed & Brad M. Barber & Terrance Odean, 2013. "Made poorer by choice: worker outcomes in Social Security v. private retirement accounts," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2013-23, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    7. Offer, Avner, 2013. "Economy of liabilities: incomplete contracts and the cost of social-oriented state," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, pages 109-126, April.
    8. Samwick, Andrew A., 1999. "Social Security Reform in the United States," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 52(4), pages 819-842, December.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions

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