Presented at the IPRA Special Session on Pensions and COVID-19: The Global Experience
Building Better Retirement Systems in the Wake of the Global Pandemic
Speaker: Professor Olivia S. Mitchell (Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania)
Abstract: In the wake of the global pandemic known as COVID-19, retirees, along with those hoping to retire someday, have been shocked into a new awareness of the need for better risk management tools to handle longevity and aging. This paper offers an assessment of the status quo prior to the spread of the coronavirus, evaluates how retirement systems are faring in the wake of the shock. Next we examine insurance and financial market products that may render retirement systems more resilient for the world’s aging population. Finally, potential roles for policymakers are evaluated.
About the speaker: Dr. Olivia S. Mitchell is the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans Professor, as well as Professor of Insurance/Risk Management and Business Economics/Policy; Executive Director of the Pension Research Council; and Director of the Boettner Center on Pensions and Retirement Research; all at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania which she joined in 1993. Concurrently Dr. Mitchell serves as a Research Associate at the NBER; Independent Director on the Wells Fargo Fund Boards; Co-Investigator for the Health and Retirement Study at the University of Michigan; Member of the Executive Board for the Michigan Retirement Research Center; and Senior Research Scholar at the Singapore Management University. She also advises the Centre for Pensions and Superannuation UNSW and is Faculty Affiliate of the Wharton Public Policy Initiative. She received the MA and PhD degrees in Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the BA in Economics from Harvard University. Dr. Mitchell has also been awarded the Doctor Rerum Publicarum Honoris Causa, Goethe University of Frankfurt; Doctor Oeconomiae Honoris Causa, University of St. Gallen; and an honorary Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
Professor Mitchell’s professional interests focus on public and private pensions, insurance and risk management, financial literacy, and public finance. Her research explores how systematic longevity risk and financial crises can shape household portfolios and work patterns over the life cycle, the economics and finance of defined contribution pensions, financial literacy and wealth accumulation, and claiming behavior for Social Security benefits. Her research has been appeared in leading academic journal including the American Economic Review, the Journal of Political Economy, the Journal of Public Economics, and the Review of Finance, and it has been featured in outlets such as The Economist, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. She also blogs on Forbes. She has published over 250 books and articles, and she is a Senior Editor of the Journal of Pension Economics and Finance.
Dr. Mitchell received the Fidelity Pyramid Prize for research improving lifelong financial well-being; the Carolyn Shaw Bell Award of the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession; and the Roger F. Murray First Prize (twice) from the Institute for Quantitative Research in Finance. She was also honored with the Premio Internazionale Dell’Istituto Nazionale Delle Assicurazioni from the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome. Her study of Social Security reform won the Paul Samuelson Award for “Outstanding Writing on Lifelong Financial Security” from TIAA-CREF. In 2011, Investment Advisor Magazine named her one of the “25 Most Influential People” and “50 Top Women in Wealth;” in 2010 she received the Retirement Income Industry Association’s Award for Achievement in Applied Retirement Research; and in 2010 Wealth Management Magazine named her one of the “50 Top Women in Wealth.” In 2015, she was named a “Top 10 Women Economist” by the World Economic Forum, and in 2016 Crain Communications named her a “Top 100 Innovator, Disruptor, and Change-Maker in Business.” In 2019, Worth.com named her a “Top 16 Powerhouse Female Economist.”
Previously Professor Mitchell chaired Wharton’s Department of Insurance and Risk Management, and she also taught for 16 years at Cornell University. She served as a Commissioner on the President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security; a Member of the US Department of Labor’s ERISA Advisory Council; and on the Board of Directors of Alexander and Alexander Services, Inc., the Board of the American Economic Association, the Advisory Board for the Central Provident Fund of Singapore, the National Academy of Social Insurance Board, the Board of the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession, and the GAO Advisory Board. She also co-chaired the Technical Panel on Trends in Retirement Income and Saving for the Social Security Advisory Council.
Professor Mitchell has visited and taught at numerous institutions including Harvard University, the NBER, Cornell University, the Goethe University of Frankfurt, the Singapore Management University, and the University of New South Wales. Professor Mitchell has consulted with many public and private groups including the World Economic Forum, the International Monetary Fund, the Investment Company Institute, the President’s Economic Forum, the World Bank, the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, the White House Conference on Social Security, the Q Group, and the Association of Flight Attendants. She has also testified before numerous committees of the US Congress, the UK Parliament, the Australian Parliament, the US Department of Labor, and the Brazilian Senate. She speaks Spanish and Portuguese, having lived and worked in Latin America, Europe, and Australasia.