The Design of Retirement Saving Programs in the Presence of Competing Consumption Needs

Andrew Samwick

NBER Retirement Research Center Paper No. NB 09-09
Issued in September 2009

This project considers the optimal design of Social Security taxes when households' saving decisions include motives like housing, education, and uncertainty in addition to retirement. At issue is the timing, not the expected present value, of taxes over the working lifetime. A 10-year, revenue-neutral delay in the onset of payroll taxes generates a welfare gain equal to approximately 18 percent of one year of annualized income. This is equivalent to giving a typical worker $8,000 of assets upon entering the work force. Welfare gains from revenue-neutral payroll tax delays are larger when individuals must also save to overcome down payment constraints on housing purchases near the beginning of their work lives and slightly lower when they must save later in their work lives to finance college educations for their children.

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