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Aging and Housing Equity

  • Steven F. Venti
  • David A. Wise

Housing equity is the principle asset of a large fraction of older Americans. Indeed many retired persons have essentially no financial assets, other then Social Security and, for some, employer-provided pension benefits. Yet we find that housing wealth is typically not used to support non-housing consumption during retirement. Based on data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, and the Asset and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest Old, we consider the change in home equity as families age. The results are based in large part on families aged 70 and older. We find that, barring changes in household structure, most elderly families are unlikely to move. Even among movers, those families that continue to own typically do not reduce home equity. However, precipitating shocks, like the death of a spouse or entry to a nursing home, sometimes lead to liquidation of home equity. Home equity is typically not liquidated to support general non-housing consumption needs. The implication is that when considering whether families have saved enough to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living after retirement, housing equity should not be counted on to support general non-housing consumption. These conclusions seem to correspond closely with the results of a recent American Association of Retired Persons survey, which found that 95 percent of persons 75 and older agreed with the statement: What I'd really like to do is stay in my current residence as long as possible.'

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7882.

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Date of creation: Sep 2000
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Bodie, Hammond, and Mitchell (eds.) Innovations in Retirement Financing. University of Pennsylvania Press and the Pension Research Council, 2002.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7882
Note: AG
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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  1. Eric M. Engen & William G. Gale & Cori R. Uccello, 1999. "The Adequacy of Retirement Saving," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 30(2), pages 65-188.
  2. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1998. "Effects of Pensions on Saving: Analysis with Data from the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Working Papers 6681, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1987. "Aging, Moving, and Housing Wealth," NBER Working Papers 2324, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1990. "But They Don't Want to Reduce Housing Equity," NBER Chapters, in: Issues in the Economics of Aging, pages 13-32 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Louise Sheiner & David N. Weil, 1992. "The Housing Wealth of the Aged," NBER Working Papers 4115, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. James F. Moore & Olivia S. Mitchell, 1997. "Projected Retirement Wealth and Savings Adequacy in the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Working Papers 6240, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Jonathan Feinstein & Daniel McFadden, 1989. "The Dynamics of Housing Demand by the Elderly: Wealth, Cash Flow, and Demographic Effects," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Aging, pages 55-92 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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