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Does Household Finance Matter? Small Financial Errors with Large Social Costs

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  • Harjoat S. Bhamra
  • Raman Uppal

Abstract

Households with familiarity biases tilt their portfolios toward a few risky assets. The resulting mean-variance loss from portfolio underdiversification is equivalent to only a modest reduction of about 1 percent per year in a household's portfolio return. However, once we consider also the effect of familiarity biases on the asset-allocation and intertemporal consumption-savings decisions, the welfare loss is multiplied by a factor of four. In general equilibrium, the suboptimal decisions of households distort also aggregate growth, amplifying further the overall social welfare loss. Our findings demonstrate that financial markets are not a mere sideshow to the real economy and that improving the financial decisions of households can lead to large benefits, not just for individual households, but also for society.

Suggested Citation

  • Harjoat S. Bhamra & Raman Uppal, 2019. "Does Household Finance Matter? Small Financial Errors with Large Social Costs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 109(3), pages 1116-1154, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:109:y:2019:i:3:p:1116-54
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.20161076
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Firth, Chris, 2020. "Protecting investors from themselves: Evidence from a regulatory intervention," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Finance, Elsevier, vol. 27(C).
    2. Fong, Joelle H. & Koh, Benedict SK. & Mitchell, Olivia S. & Rohwedder, Susann, 2019. "Financial literacy and suboptimal financial decisions at older ages," CFS Working Paper Series 630, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
    3. Fong, Joelle H. & Koh, Benedict S.K. & Mitchell, Olivia S. & Rohwedder, Susann, 2021. "Financial literacy and financial decision-making at older ages," Pacific-Basin Finance Journal, Elsevier, vol. 65(C).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G41 - Financial Economics - - Behavioral Finance - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making in Financial Markets

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