Assessing Economic Resources in Retirement: The Role of Withdrawals from Tax-Advantaged Retirement Accounts

Published: 2018
Project ID: UM18-Q4


Tax-advantaged saving is an important resource to finance consumption in retirement. In a DB world, contributions from pensions can be assessed in household surveys because they typically provide a regular stream of income. An assessment in a DC world is more difficult. Annuitization is infrequent, so most DC withdrawals are irregular or infrequent. Capturing such withdrawals in a household survey is difficult, which likely has led to an under-reporting of them. To address this problem, in 2012 the HRS revamped its pension section. It took a detailed inventory of all pensions whether current or inactive. In 2014, the HRS asked about withdrawals on a pension-by pension basis from each pension since the last HRS interview in 2012. In principle, this question sequence captured all extracts from tax-advantaged accounts between the 2012 HRS interview and the 2014 interview. This research will assess results of the revamping of the HRS pension section.