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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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  13. Mariacristina deNardi, 2000. "Wealth Inequality and Intergenerational Links," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 0547, Econometric Society.
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  15. Engen, Eric & Gale, William & Uccello, Cori, 1999. "The Adequacy of Household Saving," MPRA Paper 56442, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  16. Robert Haveman & Karen Holden & Barbara Wolfe & Shane Sherlund, 2006. "Do Newly Retired Workers in the United States Have Sufficient Resources to Maintain Well-Being?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 44(2), pages 249-264, April.
  17. John Rust & Christopher Phelan, 1997. "How Social Security and Medicare Affect Retirement Behavior in a World of Incomplete Markets," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(4), pages 781-832, July.
  18. Robert Haveman & Karen Holden & Andrei Romanov & Barbara Wolfe, 2007. "Assessing the maintenance of savings sufficiency over the first decade of retirement," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 14(4), pages 481-502, August.
  19. 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.
  20. Olivia S. Mitchell & James M. Poterba & Mark J. Warshawsky, 1997. "New Evidence on the Money's Worth of Individual Annuities," NBER Working Papers 6002, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  23. Jesus Fernández-Villaverde & Dirk Krueger, 2007. "Consumption over the Life Cycle: Facts from Consumer Expenditure Survey Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(3), pages 552-565, August.
  24. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2005. "Consumption versus Expenditure," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(5), pages 919-948, October.
  25. Eric M. Engen & William G. Gale & Cori E. Uccello, 2005. "Effects Of Stock Market Fluctuations On The Adequacy Of Retirement Wealth Accumulation," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 51(3), pages 397-418, 09.
  26. Hurd, Michael D, 1989. "Mortality Risk and Bequests," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(4), pages 779-813, July.
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  30. 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.
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