How individuals react to defined benefit pension risk

We develop a measure of (hybrid) defined benefit (DB) pension risk and show how this pension risk affects individual portfolio decisions. We find that people in riskier DB plans are, on average, not only less likely to hold equity but also hold a smaller share of their wealth in equity. This relation is stronger for people who are better informed about their pension plan risk, and for retirees. We also check whether pension risk is related to retirement decisions but find no evidence to support this hypothesis. Our main results arerobust to a number of model specifications and alternative explanations. Our findings suggest that properly funded DB pension plans can increase participants’ welfare by allowing them to seek higher returns in their individual portfolios while at the same timerelieving less sophisticated participants from the decisions required by a defined contribution plan.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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