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The Economics of Bequests in Pensions and Social Security

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  • Martin Feldstein
  • Elena Ranguelova

Abstract

Experience in private pension plans and recent policy discussions about investment-based reforms of Social Security suggest that some form of bequest is likely to be part of any such reform that is enacted. This paper provides a first examination of the potential magnitudes of such bequests and of their effect on retirement annuities and asset accumulation. The most likely form of bequest, the preretirement bequest' made when employees die before normal retirement age, reduces the funds available for post-retirement annuities by about 16 percent or, equivalently, requires a one-sixth increase in the Personal Retirement Account saving rate to maintain the same level of post-retirement annuities. We also analyze a variety of post-retirement bequest options. The least costly option that we consider is adding a ten-year-certain' feature to the life annuity, thereby providing a bequest whenever the retiree dies before age 77. This would reduce annuities, relative to providing only preretirement bequests, by about 6 percent. The most costly option that we consider would provide a bequest equal to the remaining actuarial value of the PRA annuity at the time of death and would require reducing all annuities by about 23 percent unless the PRA saving rate is raised. We analyze the size distribution of bequests that would result under different bequest rules and consider the implications for aggregate capital accumulation.

Suggested Citation

  • Martin Feldstein & Elena Ranguelova, 1999. "The Economics of Bequests in Pensions and Social Security," NBER Working Papers 7065, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7065
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ronald Lee & Jonathan Skinner, 1999. "Will Aging Baby Boomers Bust the Federal Budget?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(1), pages 117-140, Winter.
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    5. 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.
    6. Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1998. "Simulating the Privatization of Social Security in General Equilibrium," NBER Chapters,in: Privatizing Social Security, pages 265-311 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. James Levinsohn & Amil Petrin, 1999. "When Industries Become More Productive, Do Firms?," NBER Working Papers 6893, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Martin Feldstein & Andrew Samwick, 1997. "The Economics of Prefunding Social Security and Medicare Benefits," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1997, Volume 12, pages 115-164 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Akerlof, George A, 1991. "Procrastination and Obedience," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 1-19, May.
    10. Bernheim, B Douglas & Shleifer, Andrei & Summers, Lawrence H, 1986. "The Strategic Bequest Motive," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(3), pages 151-182, July.
    11. Martin Feldstein, 1998. "Privatizing Social Security," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number feld98-1, January.
    12. Martin Feldstein & Andrew Samwick, 1998. "The Transition Path in Privatizing Social Security," NBER Chapters,in: Privatizing Social Security, pages 215-264 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. 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.
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    15. David Laibson, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-478.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Jeffrey R. Brown, 2003. "Redistribution and Insurance: Mandatory Annuitization With Mortality Heterogeneity," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 70(1), pages 17-41.
    3. Louis Kaplow, 2011. "Targeted savings and labor supply," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 18(5), pages 507-518, October.
    4. Andrew Coleman, 2014. "The growth, equity, and risk implications of different retirement income policies," New Zealand Economic Papers, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 48(2), pages 226-239, August.
    5. 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.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

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

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