(Un)expected retirement and the consumption puzzle

In this work we revisit the retirement consumption puzzle using Italian panel data. As emphasised in the literature, the observed consumption drop might be due to unexpected wealth shocks at retirement which modify optimal consumption plans. Using an Euler equation approach, we test the impact of unexpected retirement on the consumption patterns of individuals around the age of retirement by using the panel component of the Survey of Household Income and Wealth (SHIW). This dataset contains information on the expected age of retirement which can be used to distinguish between expected and unexpected retirement. Furthermore, we investigate the heterogeneous behaviour of individuals with different levels of education and wealth. We find evidence of a consumption drop at retirement especially for low educated people and individuals with little wealth. The consumption drop at retirement, on average, does not seem to be a response to unexpected retirement. Disaggregating our sample, we find that the consumption drop persists among low educated people with little wealth available, irrespective of whether retirement was expected or not. Highly educated people, conversely, do smooth their consumption, unless they have low wealth and are hit by an unexpected shock at retirement in which case they are forced to drop consumption.

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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