RIEB Discussion Paper Series No.2022-34

RIEB Discussion Paper Series No.2022-34


Do the Retired Elderly in Europe Decumulate Their Wealth? The Importance of Bequest Motives, Precautionary Saving, Public Pensions, and Homeownership


In this paper, we use micro data on a large number of European countries from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) to examine the wealth accumulation (saving) behavior of the retired elderly in Europe. To summarize our main findings, we find that less than half of the retired elderly in Europe are decumulating their wealth and that the average wealth accumulation rate of the retired elderly in Europe is positive though relatively moderate (6.6% over a 3-year period). These findings strongly suggest that the Wealth Decumulation (or Retirement Saving) Puzzle (the tendency of the retired elderly to not decumulate their wealth or to decumulate their wealth more slowly than expected) applies in the case of Europe. Moreover, our regression results suggest that bequest motives, generous public pension systems, and the reluctance of retired elderly homeowners to sell or borrow against their owner-occupied housing are the primary explanations for the existence of the Wealth Decumulation Puzzle in Europe.


Aged; Bequests; Bequest intentions; Bequest motives; Dissaving; Elderly; Europe; Household saving; Inheritances; Intergenerational transfers; Life cycle model or hypothesis; Precautionary saving; Retired elderly; Retirement Saving Puzzle; saving; SHARE; Wealth accumulation; Wealth decumulation; Wealth Decumulation Puzzle

JEL Classification

D14, D15, E21, H55, J14


Charles Yuji HORIOKA
Center for Social Systems Innovation and Research Institute for Economics and Business Administration,
Kobe University
Rokkodai-cho, Nada-ku, Kobe
657-8501 Japan
Phone: +81-78-803-7036
FAX: +81-78-803-7059
Asian Growth Research Institute
Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University
National Bureau of Economic Research

Department of Economics and Law, Sapienza, University of Rome, ITALY