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Why should older people invest less in stock than younger people?

  • Ravi Jagannathan
  • Narayana R. Kocherlakota

Financial planners typically advise people to shift investments away from stocks and toward bonds as they age. The planners commonly justify this advice in three ways. They argue that stocks are less risky over a young person’s long investment horizon, that stocks are often necessary for young people to meet large financial obligations (like college tuition for their children), and that younger people have more years of labor income ahead with which to recover from the potential losses associated with stock ownership. This article uses economic reasoning to evaluate these three different justifications. It finds that the first two arguments do not make economic sense. The last argument is valid—but only for people with labor income that is relatively uncorrelated with stock returns. If a person’s labor income is highly correlated with stock returns, then that investor is better off shifting investments toward stocks over time.

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Article provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its journal Quarterly Review.

Volume (Year): (1996)
Issue (Month): Sum ()
Pages: 11-23

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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmqr:y:1996:i:sum:p:11-23:n:v.20no.3
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  1. Zvi Bodie & Robert C. Merton & William F. Samuelson, 1992. "Labor Supply Flexibility and Portfolio Choice in a Life-Cycle Model," NBER Working Papers 3954, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Hodrick, Robert J, 1992. "Dividend Yields and Expected Stock Returns: Alternative Procedures for Inference and Measurement," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 5(3), pages 357-86.
  3. Kocherlakota, N., 1995. "The Equity Premium: It's Still a Puzzle," Working Papers 95-05, University of Iowa, Department of Economics.
  4. Fama, Eugene F & French, Kenneth R, 1988. "Permanent and Temporary Components of Stock Prices," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(2), pages 246-73, April.
  5. Jagannathan, Ravi & Wang, Zhenyu, 1996. " The Conditional CAPM and the Cross-Section of Expected Returns," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 51(1), pages 3-53, March.
  6. R. C. Merton, 1970. "Optimum Consumption and Portfolio Rules in a Continuous-time Model," Working papers 58, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  7. Heaton, John & Lucas, Deborah, 1997. "Market Frictions, Savings Behavior, And Portfolio Choice," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 1(01), pages 76-101, January.
  8. Rios-Rull, Jose-Victor, 1994. "On the quantitative importance of market completeness," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 463-496, December.
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