Wharton Pension Research Council Working Papers

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Working Paper

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We compare the saving behavior of two cohorts: the Early Baby Boomers (EBB, age 51-56 in 2004) and the HRS cohort (age 51-56 in 1992). We find that the Boomers have accumulated more wealth than the previous cohort but they benefited from a large increase in house prices, which lifted the wealth of many home-owners. In fact, many EBB families, particularly those headed by respondents with low education, low income, and minorities, who have less wealth than the previous cohort. Lack of wealth can be traced to lack of retirement planning. Notwithstanding the many initiatives aimed at fostering planning in the 1990s, a large portion of EBB still do not plan for retirement even though most respondents are close to it. The effect of planning is remarkably similar between the two cohorts; those who do not plan accumulate much lower amounts of wealth, from 20 to 45 percent depending on the location in the wealth distribution, than those who do plan. Thus, for both the EBB and the HRS cohort, lack of planning is tantamount to lack of saving irrespective of the many changes in the economy between 1992 and 2004.


The published version of this Working Paper may be found in the 2007 publication: Redefining Retirement: How Will Boomers Fare?.

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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. © 2006 Pension Research Council of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved.


The authors thank Patricia Anderson, Mark Christman, Olivia Mitchell, Douglas Staiger, and Steven Venti for suggestions and comments. Financial support from the Social Security Administration via a grant from the Michigan Retirement Research Center is gratefully acknowledged. Any errors are our responsibility.

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Date Posted: 28 August 2019