Measuring Pension Wealth
Pension wealth plays a critical role in older individuals’ retirement behavior and financial security. Accordingly, the magnitude and distribution of pension wealth is important in the ongoing debate about whether households, especially Baby Boomers, have saved adequately for retirement. This chapter summarizes the results of a long-term effort to develop an improved calculator to measure defined contribution pension wealth of older Americans. We implement the approach to construct alternative estimates of DC plan balances for Health and Retirement Study (HRS) participants. We find that pension wealth resulting from voluntary saving (and accrued earnings thereon) comprises half of DC pension wealth calculated for HRS respondents with matched summary plan descriptions. We also find lower mean estimates of DC pension wealth than prior estimates. Much of this reduction in estimated DC wealth occurs for the wealthiest tail of the pension-wealth distribution. Our findings imply that researchers must think more carefully about the economic assumptions underlying pension measures.