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Involuntary Retirement and the Resolution of the Retirement-Consumption Puzzle: Evidence from Australia

  • Barrett, Garry F.
  • Brzozowski, Matthew

A substantial body of international research has shown that household expenditure on food and non-durables significantly decreases at the time of retirement - a finding that is inconsistent with the standard life-cycle model of consumption if retirement is an anticipated event. This fall in expenditure has become known as the `retirement-consumption puzzle.' We analyze rich Australian panel data to assess the Australian evidence on the puzzle. We find strong evidence of a fall in expenditures on groceries, food consumed at home and outside meals with retirement. The observed decline in expenditure is explained by a subset of households experiencing an unanticipated wealth shock, such as a major health event or long-term job loss, at the time of retirement. This finding is corroborated by an analysis of alternative measures of household well-being, including indicators of financial hardship, and self-reported financial and life satisfaction. For the majority of households retirement is anticipated and there is no decline in economic welfare at retirement. However, for an important minority, retirement is `involuntary' and these households experience a marked decline across all indicators of economic well-being.

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Paper provided by University of Sydney, School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2010-10.

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Date of creation: Sep 2010
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Handle: RePEc:syd:wpaper:2123/7697
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