Multivariate Density Modeling for Retirement Finance

130 Pages Posted: 15 Sep 2017

Date Written: September 12, 2017


Prior to the financial crisis mortgage securitization models increased in sophistication as did products built to insure against losses. Layers of complexity formed upon a foundation that could not support it and as the foundation crumbled the housing market followed. That foundation was the Gaussian copula which failed to correctly model failure-time correlations of derivative securities in duress. In retirement, surveys suggest the greatest fear is running out of money and as retirement decumulation models become increasingly sophisticated, large financial firms and robo-advisors may guarantee their success. Similar to an investment bank failure the event of retirement ruin is driven by outliers and correlations in times of stress. It would be desirable to have a foundation able to support the increased complexity before it forms however the industry currently relies upon similar Gaussian (or lognormal) dependence structures. We propose a multivariate density model having fixed marginals that is tractable and fits data which are skewed, heavy-tailed, multimodal, i.e., of arbitrary complexity allowing for a rich correlation structure. It is also ideal for stress-testing a retirement plan by fitting historical data seeded with black swan events. A preliminary section reviews all concepts before they are used and fully documented C/C source code is attached making the research self-contained. Lastly, we take the opportunity to challenge existing retirement finance dogma and also review some recent criticisms of retirement ruin probabilities and their suggested replacement metrics.

Keywords: variance components, EM algorithm, ECME algorithm, maximum likelihood, information criteria, finite mixture model, PDF, CDF, constrained optimization, retirement decumulation, probability of ruin, static/dynamic glidepaths, financial crisis

JEL Classification: C10, C44, G11

Suggested Citation

Rook, Christopher, Multivariate Density Modeling for Retirement Finance (September 12, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Christopher Rook (Contact Author)

Stevens Institute of Technology ( email )

Hoboken, NJ 07030
United States

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