Saving behavior and portfolio choice after retirement

This paper reviews the literature on saving behavior and portfolio choice after retirement and provides a descriptive analysis of this behavior by Dutch elderly households. Studying saving behavior in the Netherlands is informative because of the very different institutional background compared to the US, for which most of the empirical evidence is. In the Netherlands, the generous pension system and almost complete coverage of the public health- and long-term care insurance system makes precautionary saving less necessary. Using detailed administrative data, we present evidence on the extent to which the financial resources of retirees are affected by shocks such as the decease of a spouse or deteriorating health— similar to recent empirical studies by Poterba, Venti and Wise (2011, 2012, 2014) for the US. Moreover, we examine the extent to which retirees who do not experience any shocks are able to keep positive wealth at their disposal and sustain their consumption level during retirement. Our results show that the death of the spouse results in a significant reduction of household wealth compared to surviving couples— which is also found in the US— while health shocks result in higher household savings in old-age due to the almost complete coverage of health care expenditures. Although retirees in the Netherlands face limited uncertainty about health expenditures, our analysis shows that the elderly, on average, keep large amounts of assets even at a very old age. Our findings suggest that (1) the generous pension benefits are protective of household wealth (2) illiquid housing wealth constrains the decumulation of household wealth (3) bequests and transfers after the death of the first spouse are important.

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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