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Abstract

Changes in Consumption and Activities in Retirement
by Michael Hurd and Susann Rohwedder
RB 2005-080
The simple one-good model of life-cycle consumption requires “consumption smoothing.” According to previous results based on partial spending and on synthetic panels, British and U.S. households apparently reduce consumption at retirement. The reduction cannot be explained by the simple one-good life-cycle model, so it has been referred to as the retirement-consumption puzzle. An interpretation is that at retirement individuals discover they have fewer economic resources than they had anticipated prior to retirement, and as a consequence reduce consumption. This interpretation challenges the life-cycle model where consumers are assumed to be forward looking. Using panel data on anticipated consumption changes at retirement and on recollected consumption changes following retirement, we find that the median recollected change in spending at retirement is zero and that the recollections are broadly consistent with anticipations. Based on a measure of total spending in true panel we find that the actual mean and median changes are slightly positive. Therefore, we find no retirement-consumption puzzle.
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