How Big Is the Leakage Problem?

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This paper summarizes what is known about leakages from existing studies and relates these results to detailed data on leakages in 2013 provided by Vanguard’s How America Saves. It then uses two data sets – the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) and the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) – to estimate the impact of leakages on wealth at retirement.

The Vanguard data are a critical component because they provide a comprehensive picture of assets and participant flows, whereas the surveys on which earlier studies were based tended to focus on one component, such as loans. A key limitation is that Vanguard’s population is probably older and wealthier than the general population.