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The mismatch between life insurance holdings and financial vulnerabilities: evidence from the Health and Retirement Survey
Using data on older workers from the 1992 Health and Retirement Survey, along with an elaborate life-cycle planning model, the authors quantify the effect of each individual's death on the financial status of his or her survivors and the degree to which life insurance holdings moderate these consequences. The average change in living standard that would result from a spouse's death is small, both in absolute terms and relative to the decline that would occur without insurance. However, this average obscures a startling mismatch between insurance holdings and underlying vulnerabilities. For many of the most vulnerable, the amounts purchased are surprisingly small, and for many of the least vulnerable, the amounts are surprisingly large. As a result, uninsured vulnerabilities are quite widespread. The magnitude of these vulnerabilities, as well as the proclivity to address any given degree of vulnerability by purchasing life insurance, vary systematically with individual and household characteristics.
AUTHORS: Kotlikoff, Laurence J.; Bernheim, B. Douglas; Gokhale, Jagadeesh; Forni, Lorenzo
The adequacy of life insurance: evidence from the health and retirement survey
This study examines life insurance adequacy among married American couples approaching retirement based on the 1992 Health and Retirement Survey with matched Social Security earnings histories. It evaluates each household's life insurance needs based on new financial planning software that embodies a life-cycle-planning model and covers a broad array of demographic, economic, and financial characteristics. A sizable minority of households are significantly underinsured. Almost one third of wives and over 10 percent of husbands would have suffered living-standard reductions greater than 20 percent had their spouses died in 1992.
AUTHORS: Forni, Lorenzo; Bernheim, B. Douglas; Kotlikoff, Laurence J.; Gokhale, Jagadeesh
The mismatch between life insurance holdings and financial vulnerabilities: evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances
Using the 1995 Survey of Consumer Finances and an elaborate lifecycle model, we quantify the potential financial impact of each individual?s death on his or her survivors, and we measure the degree to which life insurance moderates these consequences. Life insurance is essentially uncorrelated with financial vulnerability at every stage of the life cycle. As a result, the impact of insurance among at-risk households is modest, and substantial uninsured vulnerabilities are widespread, particularly among younger couples. Roughly two-thirds of poverty among surviving women and more than one-third of poverty among surviving men results from a failure to insure survivors against an diminished living standard. We also identify a systematic gender bias: for any given level of financial vulnerability, couples provide significantly more protection for wives than for husbands.
AUTHORS: Gokhale, Jagadeesh; Carman, Katherine Grace; Kotlikoff, Laurence J.; Bernheim, B. Douglas
How much should Americans be saving for retirement?
How much should Americans save prior to retirement? Given Social Security's shaky financial condition, this is a critical question for baby boomers. A financial planning program-ESPlanner-is applied to data from the Health and Retirement Survey (HRS) to consider the amount that households approaching retirement should save.
AUTHORS: Forni, Lorenzo; Gokhale, Jagadeesh; Bernheim, B. Douglas; Kotlikoff, Laurence J.
Do Americans save too little?
AUTHORS: Bernheim, B. Douglas; Scholtz, John Karl