November 30, 2012

CAAR – National Bureau of Economic Research Working Papers – November 30, 2012

Filed under: Working Papers — Tags: , , — admin @ 4:48 pm

A. “Active vs. Passive Decisions and Crowdout in Retirement Savings Accounts: Evidence from Denmark,” by Raj Chetty, John N. Friedman, Soren Leth-Petersen, Torben Nielsen, and Tore Olsen (w18565, November 2012, .pdf format, 74p.).


Do retirement savings policies – such as tax subsidies or employer-provided pension plans – increase total saving for retirement or simply induce shifting across accounts? We revisit this classic question using 45 million observations on savings for the population of Denmark. We find that a policy’s impact on total savings depends critically on whether it changes savings rates by active or passive choice. Tax subsidies, which rely upon individuals to take an action to raise savings, have small impacts on total wealth. We estimate that each $1 of tax expenditure on subsidies increases total saving by 1 cent. In contrast, policies that raise savings automatically even if individuals take no action – such as employer-provided pensions or automatic contributions to retirement accounts – increase wealth accumulation substantially. Price subsidies only affect the behavior of active savers who respond to incentives, whereas automatic contributions increase savings of passive individuals who do not reoptimize. We estimate that 85% of individuals are passive savers. The 15% of active savers who respond to price subsidies do so primarily by shifting assets across accounts rather than reducing consumption. These individuals also o set changes in automatic contributions and have higher wealth-income ratios. We conclude that automatic contributions are more effective at increasing total retirement savings than price subsidies for three reasons: (1) subsidies induce relatively few individuals to respond, (2) they generate substantial crowdout conditional on response, and (3) they do not influence the savings behavior of passive individuals, who are least prepared for retirement.

B. “What Makes Annuitization More Appealing?” by John Beshears, James J. Choi, David Laibson, Brigitte C. Madrian, and Stephen P. Zeldes (w18575, November 2012, .pdf format, 25p.).


We conduct and analyze two large surveys of hypothetical annuitization choices. We find that allowing individuals to annuitize a fraction of their wealth increases annuitization relative to a situation where annuitization is an ‘all or nothing’ decision. Very few respondents choose declining real payout streams over flat or increasing real payout streams of equivalent expected present value. Highlighting the effects of inflation increases demand for cost of living adjustments. Frames that focus on flexibility, control, and investment risk significantly reduce annuitization. A majority of respondents prefer to receive an extra ‘bonus’ payment during one month of the year that is funded by slightly lower payments in the remaining months. Concerns about later-life income, spending flexibility, and counterparty risk are the most important self-reported motives that influence the annuitization decision, whereas the desire to leave a bequest has little influence on this decision.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress