State and Local Pension Funding in the Enhanced Financial Accounts
In this Note we describe new state-level data on the funding status of state and local government defined-benefit pension plans, which is part of the Enhanced Financial Accounts (EFA) initiative.
Does health affect portfolio choice?
Previous studies find a strong and positive empirical connection between health status and the share of risky assets held in household portfolios. But is this relationship truly causal, in the sense that households respond to changes in health by altering their portfolio allocation, or does it simply reflect unobserved differences across households? We find that most of the variation by health is on the extensive margin of stock ownership (rather than the marginal allocation conditional on ownership), which more plausibly points to non-causal explanations. Moreover, we find that any link ...
The trajectory of wealth in retirement
As the baby boomers begin to retire, a great deal remains unknown about the evolution of wealth toward the end of life. In this paper, we develop a new measure of household resources that converts total financial, nonfinancial, and annuitized assets into an expected annual amount of wealth per person. We use this measure, which we call "annualized comprehensive wealth," to investigate spend-down behavior among older households in the Health and Retirement Study. Our analysis indicates that, in (real) dollar terms, the median household?s wealth declines more slowly than its remaining life ...
Measuring Aggregate Housing Wealth : New Insights from an Automated Valuation Model
We construct a new measure of aggregate U.S. housing wealth based on Zillow's Automated Valuation Model (AVM). AVMs offer advantages over other methods because they are based on recent market transaction prices, utilize large datasets which include property characteristics and local geographic variables, and are updated frequently with little lag. However, using Zillow's AVM to measure aggregate housing wealth requires overcoming several challenges related to the representativeness of the Zillow sample. We propose methods that address these challenges and generate a new estimate of aggregate ...
Borrowing from yourself: 401(k) loans and household balance sheets
We examine 401(k) borrowing since 1992 and identify a puzzle: despite potential gains from borrowing against 401(k) assets instead of from other sources, most eligible households eschew 401(k) loans, including many who carry relatively expensive balances on credit cards and auto loans. We estimate that households with access to 401(k) loans could have saved about $3.3 billion in 2004--about $200 per household--by shifting debt to 401(k) loans. We find that liquidity constrained households are most likely to borrow against their accounts; however, the fastest growth has been among higher ...
The geography of stock market participation: the influence of communities and local firms
This paper is the first to investigate the importance of geography in explaining equity market participation. We provide evidence to support two distinct local area effects. The first is a community ownership effect, that is, individuals are influenced by the investment behavior of members of their community. Specifically, a ten percentage-point increase in equity market participation of the other members of one's community makes it two percentage points more likely that the individual will invest in stocks, conditional on a rich set of controls. We find further evidence that the influence of ...
A new look at the wealth adequacy of older U.S. households
We construct two measures of the current wealth adequacy of older U.S. households using the 1998--2006 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). The first is the ratio of "comprehensive wealth"--defined as net worth plus the expected value of future income streams--to the wealth that would be needed to generate expected poverty-line income in future years. By this measure, we find that the median older U.S. household is reasonably well situated, with a "poverty ratio" of about 3.9 in 2006. However, we find that about 18 percent of households have less wealth than would be needed to ...
Should risky firms offer risk-free DB pensions?
We develop a simple model of pension financing to study the effects of pension risk on shareholder value. In the model, firms minimize costs, total compensation must clear the labor market, and a government pension insurer guarantees a portion of promised benefits. We find that in the absence of mispriced pension insurance, the optimal pension strategy under most specifications is to immunize all sources of market risk. Mispriced pension insurance, however, gives firms the incentive to introduce risk into their pension promises, offering an explanation for some of the observed prevalence of ...
Do households have enough wealth for retirement?
Dramatic structural changes in the U.S. pension system, along with the impending wave of retiring baby boomers, have given rise to a broad policy discussion of the adequacy of household retirement wealth. We construct a uniquely comprehensive measure of wealth for households aged 51 and older in 2004 that includes expected wealth from Social Security, defined benefit pensions, life insurance, annuities, welfare payments, and future labor earnings. Abstracting from the uncertainty surrounding asset returns, length of life and medical expenses, we assess the adequacy of wealth using two ...
Launching the Enhanced Financial Accounts
The Federal Reserve Board has begun an ambitious and long-term effort to enhance the Financial Accounts of the United States by providing additional detail and disaggregation, higher frequency data, and additional documentation and analysis of financial data, in order to improve our picture of financial intermediation and activity in the United States.