Wharton Pension Research Council Working Papers

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Working Paper

Date of this Version



Financial advice tends to focus on financial assets, but other levers may be more important for most households. This chapter proceeds in three stages. First we report a simple Excel spreadsheet exercise that provides a stylized example of the tradeoff between returns and time spent in the labor force. Next we use data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) on pre-retirees age 51-64 to see how the gap between retirement needs and retirement resources is affected by working longer, taking out a reverse mortgage, controlling spending, and shifting all assets to equities with no risk. Last we use a simple dynamic programming model to calculate a risk-adjusted measure of the value for the average household of moving from a typical conservative portfolio to an optimal portfolio. Our answer from all three exercises suggests that the focus on asset allocation is misplaced.


The published version of this Working Paper may be found in the 2013 publication: The Market for Retirement Financial Advice.

Working Paper Number


Copyright/Permission Statement

All findings, interpretations, and conclusions of this paper represent the views of the authors and not those of the Wharton School or the Pension Research Council. © 2012 Pension Research Council of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved.

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Economics Commons



Date Posted: 28 June 2019