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The Trajectory of Wealth in Retirement

In this paper, we develop a measure of household resources that converts total financial, nonfinancial, and annuitized assets into an expected annual amount of wealth per person in retirement. We use this measure, which we call "annualized comprehensive wealth," to investigate spend-down behavior among a panel of older households in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) from 1998 to 2006. Our analysis indicates that for most retired households, comprehensive wealth balances decline much more slowly than their remaining life expectancies, so that the predominate trend is for real annualized wealth actually to rise significantly with age over the course of retirement. Comparing the estimated age profiles for annualized wealth with profiles simulated from several different life cycle models, we find that a model that takes into account uncertain longevity, random medical expenses, and intended bequests lines up best with the broad patterns of rising annualized wealth in the HRS.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, Williams College in its series Department of Economics Working Papers with number 2008-10.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2008
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in Journal of Public Economics, 2009, Vol. 93 (February), pp. 191-208.
Handle: RePEc:wil:wileco:2008-10
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  16. Mariacristina De Nardi, 2004. "Wealth Inequality and Intergenerational Links," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(3), pages 743-768.
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  27. Christopher D. Carroll, 1992. "The Buffer-Stock Theory of Saving: Some Macroeconomic Evidence," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 23(2), pages 61-156.
  28. Jonathan Skinner & Stephen P. Zeldes, 2002. "The Importance of Bequests and Life-Cycle Saving in Capital Accumulation: A New Answer," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 274-278, May.
  29. Cagetti, Marco, 2003. "Wealth Accumulation over the Life Cycle and Precautionary Savings," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 21(3), pages 339-53, July.
  30. Kotlikoff, Laurence J & Summers, Lawrence H, 1981. "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers in Aggregate Capital Accumulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 706-32, August.
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