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The Location and Allocation of Assets in Pension and Conventional Savings Accounts


  • John B. Shoven


This paper addresses two important parts of the problem of saving for retirement. They are (1) if assets are to be held in both conventional (and hence taxable) accounts and pension accounts, which assets should be held in each? and, (2) if the investor is substantially risk averse, what is the optimal mix of stocks and bonds for retirement saving? It is shown that the conventional wisdom of first placing heavily taxed corporate bonds in the pension account (and holding equity mutual funds outside the account) is the wrong asset location strategy for most people and most circumstances. It is also shown that even very risk averse retirement savers should allocate more than half of their portfolio to stocks if asset returns have the same means, variances, and covariances as have been observed over the past seventy years.

Suggested Citation

  • John B. Shoven, 1999. "The Location and Allocation of Assets in Pension and Conventional Savings Accounts," NBER Working Papers 7007, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7007
    Note: AG PE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John B. Shoven & David A. Wise, 1998. "The Taxation of Pensions: A Shelter Can Become a Trap," NBER Chapters,in: Frontiers in the Economics of Aging, pages 173-212 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. N. Gregory Mankiw & James M. Poterba, 1996. "Stock Market Yields and the Pricing of Municipal Bonds," NBER Working Papers 5607, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Thomas E. MaCurdy & John B. Shoven, 1992. "Stocks, Bonds, and Pension Wealth," NBER Chapters,in: Topics in the Economics of Aging, pages 61-78 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tang, Ning & Mitchell, Olivia S. & Mottola, Gary R. & Utkus, Stephen P., 2010. "The efficiency of sponsor and participant portfolio choices in 401(k) plans," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 1073-1085, December.
    2. Frédéric Gonand, 2004. "Fonds de pension américains : une évaluation du risque macroéconomique," Revue d'Économie Financière, Programme National Persée, vol. 75(2), pages 291-311.
    3. Cunningham, Christopher R. & Engelhardt, Gary V., 2002. "Federal Tax Policy, Employer Matching, and 401(K) Saving: Evidence From HRS W-2 Records," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 55(3), pages 617-645, September.
    4. Poterba, James M. & Samwick, Andrew A., 2003. "Taxation and household portfolio composition: US evidence from the 1980s and 1990s," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 5-38, January.
    5. Poterba, James M., 2002. "Taxation, risk-taking, and household portfolio behavior," Handbook of Public Economics,in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 17, pages 1109-1171 Elsevier.
    6. Gene Amromin, 2008. "Precautionary Savings Motives and Tax Efficiency of Household Portfolios: An Empirical Analysis," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 22, pages 5-41 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. J. Ph. & GAUDEMET, 2001. "The purchase of individual life-annuities: a description of the french institutional setting," Documents de Travail de la DESE - Working Papers of the DESE g2001-08, Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques, DESE.
    8. Gary V. Engelhardt & Anil Kumar, 2007. "Employer Matching and 401(k) Saving: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Chapters,in: Public Policy and Retirement, Trans-Atlantic Public Economics Seminar (TAPES), pages 1920-1943 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Zhou, Jie, 2009. "The asset location puzzle: Taxes matter," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 955-969, April.
    10. Shoven, John B. & Sialm, Clemens, 2004. "Asset location in tax-deferred and conventional savings accounts," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1-2), pages 23-38, January.
    11. Jean Philippe Gaudemet, 2001. "Les dispositifs d'acquisition à titre facultatif d'annuités viagères en vue de la retraite : une diffusion limitée," Économie et Statistique, Programme National Persée, vol. 348(1), pages 81-106.
    12. Jennings, William W. & Reichenstein, William, 2001. "The value of retirement income streams: the value of military retirement," Financial Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 10(1-4), pages 19-35.
    13. Srinivas, P.S. & Whitehouse, Edward & Yermo, Juan, 2000. "Regulating private pension funds’ structure, performance and investments: cross-country evidence," MPRA Paper 14753, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Bergstresser, Daniel & Poterba, James, 2004. "Asset allocation and asset location: household evidence from the survey of consumer finances," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1893-1915, August.
    15. James M. Poterba, 2001. "Taxation and Portfolio Structure: Issues and Implications," NBER Working Papers 8223, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. James M. Poterba & John B. Shoven & Clemens Sialm, 2000. "Asset Location for Retirement Savers," NBER Working Papers 7991, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    JEL classification:

    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions

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