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The Trajectory of Wealth in Retirement

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Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • David Love & Michael Palumbo & Paul Smith, 2008. "The Trajectory of Wealth in Retirement," Department of Economics Working Papers 2008-10, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  • Handle: RePEc:wil:wileco:2008-10
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Retirement wealth; life-cycle saving; mortality risk; precautionary saving; bequests; risk and uncertainty.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General

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