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Financial Literacy and Planning: Implications for Retirement Wellbeing

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  • Annamaria Lusardi
  • Olivia S. Mitchell

Abstract

Evidence suggests only a minority of American households feels "confident" about retirement saving adequacy. Little is known about why people fail to plan for retirement, and whether planning and information costs might affect retirement saving patterns. To better understand these issues, we devised and fielded a purpose-built module on planning and financial literacy for the 2004 Health and Retirement Study (HRS). This module measures how workers make their saving decisions, how they collect the information for making these decisions, and whether they possess the financial literacy needed to make these decisions. Our analysis shows that financial illiteracy is widespread among older Americans: only half of the age 50+ respondents could correctly answer two simple questions regarding interest compounding and inflation, and only one-third understood these as well as stock market risk. Women, minorities, and those without a college degree were particularly at risk of displaying low financial knowledge. We also evaluate whether people tried to figure out how much they need to save for retirement, whether they devised a plan, and whether they succeeded at the plan. In fact, these calculations prove to be difficult: fewer than one-third of our age 50+ respondents ever tried to devise a retirement plan, and only two-thirds of those who tried, actually claim to have succeeded. Overall, fewer than one - fifth of the respondents believed that they engaged in successful retirement planning. We also find that financial knowledge and planning are clearly interrelated: those who displayed financial knowledge were more likely to plan and to succeed in their planning. Moreover, those who did plan were more likely to rely on formal planning methods such as retirement calculators, retirement seminars, and financial experts, and less likely to rely on family/relatives or co-workers.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department in its series DNB Working Papers with number 078.

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Date of creation: Jan 2006
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Handle: RePEc:dnb:dnbwpp:078

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Keywords: interest compounding; inflation; risk diversification; retirement planning.;

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References

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  1. Olivia S. Mitchell, 1987. "Worker Knowledge of Pension Provisions," NBER Working Papers 2414, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Laurent E. Calvet & John Y. Campbell & Paolo Sodini, 2006. "Down or Out: Assessing the Welfare Costs of Household Investment Mistakes," NBER Working Papers 12030, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. James F. Moore & Olivia S. Mitchell, . "Projected Retirement Wealth and Saving Adequacy," Pension Research Council Working Papers 98-1, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  4. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2009. "How Ordinary Consumers Make Complex Economic Decisions: Financial Literacy and Retirement Readiness," NBER Working Papers 15350, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2003. "Wealth Accumulation And The Propensity To Plan," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1007-1047, August.
  6. Martin Browning & Annamaria Lusardi, 1996. "Household Saving: Micro Theories and Micro Facts," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(4), pages 1797-1855, December.
  7. Alan L. Gustman & Olivia S. Mitchell & Andrew A. Samwick & Thomas L. Steinmeier, . "Pension and Social Security Wealth in the Health and Retirement Study," Pension Research Council Working Papers 97-3, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  8. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2004. "The Absent-Minded Consumer," NBER Working Papers 10216, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2000. "Choice, Chance, and Wealth Dispersion at Retirement," NBER Working Papers 7521, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Haliassos, Michael & Bertaut, Carol C, 1995. "Why Do So Few Hold Stocks?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 105(432), pages 1110-29, September.
  11. Marianne A. Hilgert & Jeanne M. Hogarth & Sondra G. Beverly, 2003. "Household financial management: the connection between knowledge and behavior," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Jul, pages 309-322.
  12. Giovanni Mastrobuoni, 2007. "Do better–informed workers make better retirement choices? A test based on the Social Security Statement," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 51, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  13. Esther Duflo & Emmanuel Saez, 2002. "The Role of Information and Social Interactions in Retirement Plan Decisions: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," NBER Working Papers 8885, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Douglas D. Bernheim, . "Financial Illiteracy, Education, and Retirement Saving," Pension Research Council Working Papers 96-7, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  15. Olivia S. Mitchell & James Moore & John Phillips, . "Explaining Retirement Saving Shortfalls," Pension Research Council Working Papers 98-13, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  16. Esther Dufluo & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "The role of information and social interactions in retirement plan decisions: Evidence from a randomized experiment," Framed Field Experiments 00141, The Field Experiments Website.
  17. Sewin Chan & Ann Huff Stevens, 2003. "What You Don't Know Can't Help You: Pension Knowledge and Retirement Decision Making," NBER Working Papers 10185, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1998. "Effects of Pensions on Saving: Analysis with Data from the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Working Papers 6681, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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