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The Age of Reason: Financial Decisions over the Life-Cycle with Implications for Regulation

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Author Info

  • Agarwal, Sumit
  • Driscoll, John C.
  • Gabaix, Xavier
  • Laibson, David I.

Abstract

Many consumers make poor financial choices and older adults are particularly vulnerable to such errors. About half of the population between ages 80 and 89 either has dementia or a medical diagnosis of “cognitive impairment without dementia.†We study lifecycle patterns in financial mistakes using a proprietary database that measures ten different types of credit behavior. Financial mistakes include suboptimal use of credit card balance transfer offers, misestimation of the value of one’s house, and excess interest rate and fee payments. In a cross-section of prime borrowers, middle-aged adults make fewer financial mistakes than younger and older adults. We conclude that financial mistakes follow a U-shaped pattern, with the cost-minimizing performance occurring around age 53. We analyze regulatory regimes that may help individuals avoid making financial mistakes. Some of these regimes are designed to address the particular challenges faced by older adults, but much of our discussion is relevant for all vulnerable populations. We discuss disclosure, nudges, financial driving licenses, advanced directives, fiduciaries, asset safe harbors, ex-post and ex-ante regulatory oversight. Finally, we pose seven questions for future research on cognitive limitations and associated policy responses.

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File URL: http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/4554335/Laibson_AgeofReason.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Harvard University Department of Economics in its series Scholarly Articles with number 4554335.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Publication status: Published in Brookings Papers on Economic Activity
Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:4554335

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  1. Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson & Guillermo Moloche & Stephen Weinberg, 2005. "Information Acquisition: Experimental Analysis of a Boundedly Rational Model," Levine's Bibliography 666156000000000480, UCLA Department of Economics.
  2. Victor Stango & Jonathan Zinman, 2009. "Exponential Growth Bias and Household Finance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 64(6), pages 2807-2849, December.
  3. Richard Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save more tomorrow: Using behavioral economics to increase employee saving," Natural Field Experiments 00337, The Field Experiments Website.
  4. Sumit Agarwal & John C. Driscoll & Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2008. "Learning in the Credit Card Market," NBER Working Papers 13822, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Choi, James & Madrian, Brigitte & Laibson, David I., 2010. "Why Does the Law of One Price Fail? An Experiment on Index Mutual Funds," Scholarly Articles 4686775, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  6. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2007. "Financial literacy and retirement preparedness: Evidence and implications for financial education programs," CFS Working Paper Series 2007/15, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  7. James Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte Madrian, 2008. "$100 Bills on the Sidewalk: Suboptimal Investment in 401(K) Plans," Yale School of Management Working Papers amz2519, Yale School of Management, revised 01 Jul 2009.
  8. Ran Spiegler, 2006. "The Market for Quacks," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(4), pages 1113-1131.
  9. Ulrike Malmendier & Stefan Nagel, 2011. "Depression Babies: Do Macroeconomic Experiences Affect Risk Taking?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(1), pages 373-416.
  10. Gabaix, Xavier & Laibson, David I., 2006. "Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets," Scholarly Articles 4554333, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  11. John Beshears & James Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte Madrian, 2008. "Simplification and Saving," Yale School of Management Working Papers amz2392, Yale School of Management.
  12. Daniel J. Benjamin & Sebastian A. Brown & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2006. "Who is “Behavioral”? Cognitive Ability and Anomalous Preferences," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000001334, David K. Levine.
  13. John F. Helliwell & Haifang Huang, 2008. "Well-being and Trust in the Workplace," NBER Working Papers 14589, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Pablo Antolín & Colin Pugh & Fiona Stewart, 2008. "Forms of Benefit Payment at Retirement," OECD Working Papers on Insurance and Private Pensions 26, OECD Publishing.
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Cited by:
  1. Gábor Kézdi & Robert J. Willis, 2013. "Expectations, Aging and Cognitive Decline," NBER Chapters, in: Discoveries in the Economics of Aging, pages 305-337 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Disney, Richard & Gathergood, John, 2013. "Financial literacy and consumer credit portfolios," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(7), pages 2246-2254.
  3. Heiss, Florian & Leive, Adam & McFadden, Daniel & Winter, Joachim, 2013. "Plan selection in Medicare Part D: Evidence from administrative data," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(6), pages 1325-1344.
  4. Nofsinger, John R., 2012. "Household behavior and boom/bust cycles," Journal of Financial Stability, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 161-173.
  5. Hugh H. Kim & Raimond Maurer & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2013. "Time is Money: Life Cycle Rational Inertia and Delegation of Investment Management," NBER Working Papers 19732, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Joanne W. Hsu & Robert Willis, 2013. "Dementia Risk and Financial Decision Making by Older Households: The Impact of Information," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(4), pages 340 - 377.
  7. Graham, John R. & Harvey, Campbell R. & Puri, Manju, 2013. "Managerial attitudes and corporate actions," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(1), pages 103-121.
  8. Gathergood, John, 2012. "Self-control, financial literacy and consumer over-indebtedness," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 590-602.
  9. Duca, John V. & Kumar, Anil, 2014. "Financial literacy and mortgage equity withdrawals," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(C), pages 62-75.
  10. Agarwal, Sumit & Hu, Luojia & Huang, Xing, 2013. "Rushing into American Dream? House Prices, Timing of Homeownership, and Adjustment of Consumer Credit," Working Paper Series WP-2013-13, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  11. Erner, Carsten & Klos, Alexander & Langer, Thomas, 2013. "Can prospect theory be used to predict an investor’s willingness to pay?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(6), pages 1960-1973.
  12. Klapper, Leora & Lusardi, Annamaria & Panos, Georgios A., 2013. "Financial literacy and its consequences: Evidence from Russia during the financial crisis," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(10), pages 3904-3923.
  13. Zvi Bodie & J�r�me Detemple & Marcel Rindisbacher, 2009. "Life-Cycle Finance and the Design of Pension Plans," Annual Review of Financial Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 249-286, November.
  14. Meta Brown & Wilbert van der Klaauw & Jaya Wen & Basit Zafar, 2013. "Financial education and the debt behavior of the young," Staff Reports 634, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

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