How Important Is Asset Allocation to Financial Security in Retirement?
Financial advice tends to focus on financial assets, but other levers may be more important for most households. This paper proceeds in three stages. The first section reports a simple Excel spreadsheet exercise that provides a stylized example of the tradeoff between returns and time spent in the labor force. The second section uses data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) on pre-retirees aged 51-64 to see how the gap between retirement needs and retirement resources is affected by working longer, taking out a reverse mortgage, controlling spending, and shifting all assets to equities with no risk. The third section uses a simple dynamic programming model to calculate a risk-adjusted measure of the value for the average household of moving from a typical conservative portfolio to an optimal portfolio. The answer from all three exercises is the same: the focus on asset allocation is misplaced.