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A New Look at the Wealth Adequacy of Older U.S. Households

We examine the current wealth adequacy of older U.S. households using the 1998-2006 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). We find that the median older U.S. household is reasonably well situated, with a ratio of comprehensive net wealth to present value poverty- line wealth of about 3.9 in 2006. About 18 percent of households, however, have less wealth than would be needed to generate 150 percent of poverty-line income over their expected future lifetimes. We see similar patterns of wealth adequacy when we examine ratios of annualized comprehensive wealth to pre-retirement earnings. Comparing the leading edge of the baby boomers in 2006 to households of the same age in 1998, we find that the baby boomers show slightly less wealth, in real terms, than their elders did, but still have appear to have adequate resources at the median. Moreover, we find a rising age profile of annualized wealth, even within households over time and after controlling for other factors, suggesting that older households are not spending their wealth as quickly as their survival probabilities are falling.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, Williams College in its series Department of Economics Working Papers with number 2008-12.

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Length: 31 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2008
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in Review of Income and Wealth, 2008, Vol. 54(4), pp. 616-642.
Handle: RePEc:wil:wileco:2008-12
Contact details of provider: Postal: Williamstown, MA 01267
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  1. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2006. "Baby Boomer Retirement Security: The Roles of Planning, Financial Literacy, and Housing Wealth," CeRP Working Papers 54, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
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  3. John Karl Scholz & Ananth Seshadri & Surachai Khitatrakun, 2004. "Are Americans Saving "Optimally" for Retirement?," NBER Working Papers 10260, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Olivia S. Mitchell & James M. Poterba & Mark J. Warshawsky, . "New Evidence on the Money's Worth of Individual Annuities," Pension Research Council Working Papers 97-9, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
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  7. Michael Hurd & Susann Rohwedder, 2006. "Alternative Measures of Replacement Rates," Working Papers wp132, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  8. Jeffrey R. Brown & James M. Poterba, 1999. "Joint Life Annuities and Annuity Demand by Married Couples," NBER Working Papers 7199, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Robert Haveman & Karen Holden & Barbara Wolfe & Andrei Romanov, 2005. "Assessing the Maintenance of Savings Sufficiency Over the First Decade of Retirement," CESifo Working Paper Series 1567, CESifo Group Munich.
  10. Shiller Robert J., 2006. "Long-Term Perspectives on the Current Boom in Home Prices," The Economists' Voice, De Gruyter, vol. 3(4), pages 1-11, March.
  11. Alicia H. Munnell & Mauricio Soto, 2006. "What Replacement Rates Do Households Actually Experience In Retirement?," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2005-10, Center for Retirement Research.
  12. Bernheim, B. Douglas, 1987. "The economic effects of social security : Toward a reconciliation of theory and measurement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 273-304, August.
  13. Willaim G. Gale & Karen M. Pence, 2006. "Are Successive Generations Getting Wealthier, and If So, Why?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 37(1), pages 155-234.
  14. Engen, Eric & Gale, William & Uccello, Cori, 1999. "The Adequacy of Household Saving," MPRA Paper 56442, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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