NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Retirement of a Consumption Puzzle

Erik Hurst

NBER Working Paper No. 13789
Issued in February 2008
NBER Program(s):   AG   EFG   LS   PE

This paper summarizes five facts that have emerged from the recent literature on consumption behavior during retirement. Collectively, the recent literature has shown that there is no puzzle with respect to the spending patterns of most households as they transition into retirement. In particular, the literature has shown that there is substantial heterogeneity in spending changes at retirement across consumption categories. The declines in spending during retirement for the average household are limited to the categories of food and work related expenses. Spending in nearly all other categories of non-durable expenditure remains constant or increases. Moreover, even though food spending declines during retirement, actual food intake remains constant. The literature also shows that there is substantial heterogeneity across households in the change in expenditure associated with retirement. Much of this heterogeneity, however, can be explained by households involuntarily retiring due to deteriorating health. Overall, the literature shows that the standard model of lifecycle consumption augmented with home production and uncertain health shocks does well in explaining the consumption patterns of most households as they transition into retirement.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w13789

Published: ā€œUnderstanding Consumption in Retirement: Recent Developmentsā€, in Recalibrating Retirement Spending and Saving (eds, John Ameriks and Olivia Mitchell), Oxford University Press, September 2008.

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