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Asset Location for Retirement Savers

Author

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  • James M. Poterba
  • John B. Shoven
  • Clemens Sialm

Abstract

This paper uses data on actual returns on taxable bonds, tax-exempt bonds, and a small sample of equity mutual funds over the 1962-1998 period to compare two asset location strategies for retirement savers. The first strategy gives priority to holding equities, through equity mutual funds, in a saver's tax-deferred account, while the second strategy gives priority to holding fixed-income investments in the tax-deferred account. We consider high-income taxable individual investors who saved in each year and invested in one of actively-managed funds in our sample. Over the thirty-seven year span that we consider, such savers would have accumulated a larger stock of wealth if they had held their equity mutual fund in their tax-deferred account than if they had held the fund in a conventional taxable form. The explanation for this apparent contradiction of the often-stated bonds in the tax-deferred account' prescription has two parts. First, many equity mutual funds impose substantial tax burdens on their investors. This raises the effective tax rate on investing in equities through mutual funds rather than in a buy-and-hold personal portfolio. Second, taxable investors who wish to hold fixed income assets can do so by holding tax-exempt bonds as well as by holding taxable bonds. The interest rate differential between taxable and tax-exempt bonds suggests that the effective tax rate on fixed income investments may be lower than the statutory tax rate for high-income investors.

Suggested Citation

  • James M. Poterba & John B. Shoven & Clemens Sialm, 2000. "Asset Location for Retirement Savers," NBER Working Papers 7991, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7991
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Mehra, Rajnish & Prescott, Edward C., 1985. "The equity premium: A puzzle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 145-161, March.
    2. Dickson, Joel M. & Shoven, John B. & Sialm, Clemens, 2000. "Tax Externalities of Equity Mutual Funds," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 53(3), pages 607-628, September.
    3. Poterba, James M., 1989. "Tax reform and the market for tax-exempt debt," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 537-562, August.
    4. Carhart, Mark M, 1997. " On Persistence in Mutual Fund Performance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(1), pages 57-82, March.
    5. Irwin Tepper, 1981. "Taxation and Corporate Pension Policy," NBER Working Papers 0661, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. 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.
    7. Bergstresser, Daniel & Poterba, James, 2002. "Do after-tax returns affect mutual fund inflows?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 381-414, March.
    8. 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.
    9. Joel M. Dickson & John B. Shoven, 1995. "Taxation and Mutual Funds: An Investor Perspective," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 9, pages 151-180 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Tepper, Irwin, 1981. "Taxation and Corporate Pension Policy," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 36(1), pages 1-13, March.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. 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;National Tax Journal, vol. 55(3), pages 617-645, September.
    2. Amromin, Gene & Huang, Jennifer & Sialm, Clemens, 2007. "The tradeoff between mortgage prepayments and tax-deferred retirement savings," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(10), pages 2014-2040, November.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. Zhou, Jie, 2009. "The asset location puzzle: Taxes matter," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 955-969, April.
    6. 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.
    7. Gopi Shah Goda & Colleen Flaherty Manchester, 2013. "Incorporating Employee Heterogeneity into Default Rules for Retirement Plan Selection," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 48(1), pages 198-235.
    8. Burman, Leonard E. & Gale, William G. & Weiner, David, 2001. "The Taxation of Retirement Saving: Choosing Between Front-Loaded and Back-Loaded Options," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 54(n. 3), pages 689-702, September.
    9. Christine Lai, 2006. "Determinants of Portfolio Efficiency Losses in US Self-directed Pension Accounts," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 27(4), pages 601-625, December.
    10. Milevsky, Moshe Arye & Panyagometh, Kamphol, 2001. "Variable annuities versus mutual funds: a Monte-Carlo analysis of the options," Financial Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 10(1-4), pages 145-161.
    11. 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.
    12. Joshua Woodruff & William B. Haskell & Alejandro Toriello, 2016. "Optimized Financial Systems Helps Customers Meet Their Personal Finance Goals with Optimization," Interfaces, INFORMS, vol. 46(4), pages 345-359, August.
    13. Garlappi, Lorenzo & Huang, Jennifer, 2006. "Are stocks desirable in tax-deferred accounts?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(12), pages 2257-2283, December.
    14. Richard Johnson, 2003. "Portfolio choice in tax-deferred and Roth-type savings accounts," Research Working Paper RWP 03-08, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth

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