Family Status Transitions, Latent Health, and the Post-Retirement Evolution of Assets

54 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2010 Last revised: 24 Aug 2010

See all articles by James M. Poterba

James M. Poterba

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics

Steven F. Venti

Dartmouth College - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

David A. Wise

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: February 2010

Abstract

We consider the evolution of assets after retirement. We ask whether total assets--including housing equity, personal retirement accounts, and other financial assets--tend to be husbanded for a rainy day and drawn down primarily at the time of precipitating shocks, or whether they are drawn down throughout the retirement period. We focus on the relationships between family status transitions, "latent" health status, and the evolution of assets. Our analysis is based primarily on longitudinal data from the HRS and AHEAD cohorts of the Health and Retirement Study. We find that the evolution of assets is strongly related to family status transitions. For both single individuals and married couples who do not experience a death or divorce, total assets increase well into old age. In contrast, individuals in married couples that experience a family status transition, either a death or a divorce, exhibit much slower asset growth and often experience a large decline in asset values at the time of the transition. In addition, the level and evolution of assets is very strongly related to health, measured by a latent health index. For example, for continuing two-person HRS households between the ages of 56 and 61 in 1992 the ratio of assets of households in the top health quintile to the assets of those in the bottom quintile was 1.7 in 1992. It had increased to 2.2 by the end of 2006.

Suggested Citation

Poterba, James M. and Venti, Steven F. and Wise, David A., Family Status Transitions, Latent Health, and the Post-Retirement Evolution of Assets (February 2010). NBER Working Paper No. w15789. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1560924

James M. Poterba (Contact Author)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

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Steven F. Venti

Dartmouth College - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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David A. Wise

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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