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The Wealth of Cohorts: Retirement Saving and the Changing Assets of Older Americans

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Abstract

Personal retirement accounts are becoming an increasingly important form of retirement saving. Using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, the paper considers the effect of this change on the assets of recent retirees and persons who are approaching retirement. Much of the analysis is based on comparison of younger and older cohorts with different lengths of exposure to personal retirement saving programs. The findings suggest that personal retirement saving has already added substantially to the personal financial assets of older families. Projections imply that the personal financial assets of the cohort that will attain age 76 in 28 years will be almost twice as large as the personal financial assets of the cohort that attained age 76 in 1991. The results indicate also that to date there has been little replacement of employer-provided pension saving with personal retirement saving. Together with evidence that personal financial saving is unrelated to changes in home equity, the results suggest that personal retirement saving will lead to an important increase in the overall wealth of the elderly.

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