Friday, April 5, 2013

New papers from the Social Science Research Network


"The 2013 Retirement Confidence Survey: Perceived Savings Needs Outpace Reality for Many"
EBRI Issue Brief, Number 384, March 2013

RUTH HELMAN, Mathew Greenwald & Associates
NEVIN E. ADAMS, Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)
CRAIG COPELAND, Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)
JACK VANDERHEI, Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)

This paper presents key findings from the 23rd annual Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS), a survey that gauges the views and attitudes of working-age and retired Americans regarding retirement, their preparations for retirement, their confidence with regard to various aspects of retirement, and related issues. The percentage of workers confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement is essentially unchanged from the record lows observed in 2011. While more than half express some level of confidence (13 percent are very confident and 38 percent are somewhat confident), 28 percent are not at all confident (up from 23 percent in 2012 but statistically equivalent to 27 percent in 2011), and 21 percent are not too confident. Retiree confidence in having a financially secure retirement is also unchanged, with 18 percent very confident and 14 percent not at all confident. One reason that retirement confidence has remained low despite a brightening economic outlook may be that some workers may be waking up to a realization of just how much they may need to save. Asked how much they believe they will need to save to achieve a financially secure retirement, a striking number of workers cite large savings targets: 20 percent say they need to save between 20 and 29 percent of their income and nearly one-quarter (23 percent) indicate they need to save 30 percent or more. Aggressive as those savings targets appear to be, they may not be based on a careful analysis of their individual circumstances. Only 46 percent report they and/or their spouse have tried to calculate how much money they will need to have saved by the time they retire so that they can live comfortably in retirement. Retirement savings may be taking a back seat to more immediate financial concerns: Just 2 percent of workers and 4 percent of retirees identify saving or planning for retirement as the most pressing financial issue facing most Americans today. Both workers and retirees are most likely to identify job uncertainty (30 percent of workers and 27 percent of retirees) and making ends meet (12 percent each). Cost of living and day-to-day expenses head the list of reasons why workers do not contribute (or contribute more) to their employer’s plan, with 41 percent of eligible workers citing this factor. Debt may be another factor standing in the way; 55 percent of workers and 39 percent of retirees report having a problem with their level of debt, and only half (50 percent of workers and 52 percent of retirees) say they could definitely come up with $2,000 if an unexpected need arose within the next month. Worker confidence in the affordability of various aspects of retirement continues to decline. Just 23 percent of workers (and 28 percent of retirees) report they have obtained investment advice from a professional financial advisor who was paid through fees or commissions. The 2013 Retirement Confidence Survey was co-sponsored by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan public-policy-research organization; and Mathew Greenwald & Associates, Inc., a Washington, DC-based market research firm. The survey was conducted in January 2013 through 20-minute telephone interviews with 1,254 individuals (1,003 workers and 251 retirees) age 25 and older in the United States.

"Exchanging Delayed Social Security Benefits for Lump Sums: Could this Incentivize Longer Work Careers?"
Michigan Retirement Research Center Research Paper No. 2012-266

JINGJING CHAI, Goethe University Frankfurt - Department of Finance
RAIMOND MAURER, Goethe University Frankfurt - Finance Department
OLIVIA S. MITCHELL, University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
RALPH ROGALLA, Goethe University Frankfurt - Department of Finance

Social Security benefits are currently provided as a lifelong benefit stream, though some workers would be willing to trade a portion of their annuity streams in exchange for a lump sum amount. This paper explores whether allowing people to receive a lump sum as a payment for delayed retirement rather than as an addition to their lifetime Social Security benefits might induce them to work longer. We model the factors that influence how people trade off a Social Security stream for a lump sum, and we also examine the consequences of such tradeoffs for work, retirement, and life cycle wellbeing. Our base case indicates that workers given the chance to receive their delayed retirement credit as a lump sum payment would boost their average retirement age by l.5-2 years. This will interest policymakers seeking to reform the Social Security system without raising costs or cutting benefits, while enhancing the incentives to delay retirement.

"Reforming the Taxation of Retirement Income"
Virginia Tax Review, Vol. 32, No. 2, pp. 327-366, 2012
Illinois Program in Law, Behavior and Social Science Paper No. LBSS13-23

RICHARD L. KAPLAN, University of Illinois College of Law

Legal and financial analyses abound about various means of saving for retirement and the tax advantages that they present, but very little attention has been paid to how retirement income is generated and the tax consequences that pertain to its generation. This article fills that void by examining the three major sources of retirement income: Social Security, employment-based retirement plans, and personal savings. For each of these sources, this article considers how retirement income is generated, sets forth the applicable federal income tax treatment, and proposes reforms to make the pertinent tax rules more sensible. Among its recommendations are simplifying how Social Security retirement benefits are taxed, bifurcating defined contribution plan withdrawals into capital gains and ordinary income components, repealing certain exceptions to the early distribution penalty, reducing the delayed distribution penalty and adjusting the age at which it is triggered, and changing the residential gain exclusion to avoid unanticipated problems with reverse mortgages.

"Reform Proposals for Replenishing Retirement Savings"
SPP Research Paper No. 6-9

JACK MINTZ, University of Calgary - The School of Public Policy, CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)
THOMAS A. WILSON, University of Toronto - Department of Economics

The 2008-2009 economic crisis dealt a serious blow to Canadians’ retirement savings. While markets have since partially recovered, the ratio of Canadians’ household net-worth relative to disposable income still remains below where it was in 2007. So much wealth that workers had accumulated to prepare for retirement has been wiped away, while the years since 2008 that might have otherwise been spent compounding retirement savings have been spent, instead, on trying to recover losses in a low-interest-rate environment that has limited returns. With large waves of older workers approaching retirement age, and these future retirees projected to live longer than previous cohorts, Canada now faces the very realistic scenario that a significant number of people will reach retirement age without the funds they will need to provide a comfortable post-working-life income.
Canadian policy-makers may not have the ability to restore that destroyed wealth. And with most governments already struggling to resolve serious deficits, the situation is not likely to be ameliorated with anything that requires additional spending, or that could reduce tax revenues. But there are policy reforms available that can help at least in better preparing the coming waves of retirees for a financially secure retirement. The reforms need not be far-reaching to have a meaningful impact. And they need not be costly, either.
They can include a modest expansion of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) to allow larger contributions — shared by employers and employees, or covered entirely by employees — that would, in turn, allow retiring workers to draw a larger maximum pension, rather than having to rely on the guaranteed income supplement (GIS). CPP contributions could also be made deductible from taxable income, like RRSP investments, to encourage workers to maximize contributions. To minimize an increase in payroll taxes, the eligibility age for CPP benefits could be increased to 67 years of age, similar to old-age security eligibility. Meanwhile, the tax treatment of group RRSPs — for which employer contributions are currently subject to payroll taxes — should be made the same as it is for defined-contribution registered pension plans (RPPs).
There is also the option of increasing the age limit for RPP and RRSP contributions, from 71 to 75 years, to reflect the increase in life expectancies. RRSP contributions can be altered to allow lifetime averaging, allowing workers to take advantage of additional contribution room. Contribution limits on Tax-Free Savings Accounts should be increased as well. Policy-makers should also look at creating a capital-gains deferral account, to allow investors to sell off underperforming assets, without fear of triggering a tax bill, as long as they reinvest the proceeds. The freedom to unlock unwanted investments, and make better ones, will improve revenue prospects for investors and the government.
Many of these reforms can be phased in gradually, to assess their effects on government revenue and savers’ behaviour. But they all appear to have the potential to encourage increased saving, without significantly harming long-term government revenue, helping Canadians better prepare for comfortable retirements, even after the serious wealth destruction that accompanied the recent economic crisis.

"Public Employee Pensions in Missouri: A Looming Crisis"
Show-Me Institute Policy Study, No. 36, March 2013

ANDREW G. BIGGS, American Enterprise Institute

This paper describes how public employee pensions currently measure their financial health; discusses the consensus among economists that current accounting rules significantly understate pension liabilities and overstate pension funding levels; and describes how pension financing would appear using accounting rules similar to those required for private sector pensions or for public employee plans in other countries. Following that is discussion of objections to fair market valuation. Finally, we discuss the costs and benefits of potential reforms, including shifting to defined contribution or cash balance pension structures.

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