January 2008


New York, NY - January 5, 2008 - The TIAA-CREF Institute announced the recipients of the twelfth annual TIAA-CREF Paul A. Samuelson Award for Outstanding Scholarly Writing on Lifelong Financial Security. This year’s award was given to John Karl Scholz, Ananth Seshadri and Surachai Khitatrakun for their article entitled, “Are Americans Saving ‘Optimally’ for Retirement?” published in the Journal of Political Economy, August 2006.

“Through this award the TIAA-CREF Institute identifies and recognizes outstanding published research that can help advance lifelong financial security for individuals and their families, which is at the heart of TIAA-CREF’s mission, said Madeleine d’Ambrosio, executive director, TIAA-CREF Institute. “The research conducted by this year’s Samuelson Award winners deepens the knowledge base leading to enhanced decision making by individual consumers, employers and policymakers and the development of better financial products and services.”

The winning authors conducted a data intensive study to better understand how well U.S. households are preparing for retirement. Using an innovative technique that combines sophisticated life-cycle modeling simulations with household income level data, the authors found that fewer than 20 percent of households born between 1931 and 1941 have less wealth than the simulation predicted for their “optimal” retirement target. Even for under-saving households, the wealth deficit is generally small.

The research offers at least two important contributions: First the innovative methodology provides a substantially improved technique for predicting how household wealth is related to lifetime income. Second, the results indicate most households plan reasonably and in a rational way for retirement.

John Karl Scholz is Professor of Economics at the University of Wisconsin – Madison; Ananth Seshadri is Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Wisconsin – Madison; and Surachai Khitatrakun is a Research Associate at the Urban Institute.

In addition, a TIAA-CREF Paul A. Samuelson Certificate of Excellence has been awarded to Esther Duflo, William Gale, Jeffrey Liebman, Peter Orszag, and Emmanuel Saez for their research entitled, "Savings Incentives for Low- and Middle-Income Families: Evidence from a Field Experiment with H&R Block,” published in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, November 2006. Their research focuses on how responsive low-and middle-income households are to the generosity of retirement savings program matching contributions.

Esther Duflo is Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics at MIT; William Gale is Vice President and Director of Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution; Jeffrey Liebman is the Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University; Peter Orszag is Director of the Congressional Budget Office; and Emmanuel Saez is Professor of Economics at the University of California – Berkeley.

Named in honor of Nobel laureate and former CREF Trustee Paul A. Samuelson, the award recognizes outstanding research containing ideas that the public and private sectors can use to maintain and improve Americans’ financial well being.

The Paul A. Samuelson Award will be presented in New Orleans on January 4 by the TIAA-CREF Institute during the Allied Social Science Associations annual meeting.

TIAA-CREF is a national financial services organization and the leading provider of retirement services in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields with more than $437 billion in combined assets under management (9/30/07). To learn more about TIAA-CREF, please visit

About the TIAA-CREF Institute
The mission of the TIAA-CREF Institute, part of TIAA-CREF, is to foster objective research, build knowledge, support thought leadership, and enhance understanding of strategic issues related to higher education and lifelong financial security. For additional information regarding the TIAA-CREF Paul A. Samuelson Award and other TIAA-CREF Institute initiatives, please visit

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