IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Tracking error decision rules and accumulated wealth


  • Nathan Berg
  • Donald Lien


There is compelling evidence that typical decision-makers, including individual investors and even professional money managers, care about the difference between their portfolio returns and a reference point, or benchmark return. In the context of financial markets, likely benchmarks against which investors compare their own returns include easy-to-focus-on numbers such as one's own past payoffs, historical average payoffs, and the payoffs of competitors. Referring to the gap between one's current portfolio return and the benchmark return as 'tracking error', this paper develops a simple model to study the consequences and possible origins of investors who use expected tracking error to guide their portfolio decisions, referred to as 'tracking error types'. In particular, this paper analyses the level of risk-taking and accumulated wealth of tracking error types using standard mean-variance investors as a comparison group. The behaviour of these two types are studied first in isolation, and then in an equilibrium model. Simple analytic results together with statistics summarizing simulated wealth accumulations point to the conclusion that tracking error—whether it is interpreted as reflecting inertia, habituation, or a propensity to make social comparisons in evaluating one's own performance—leads to greater risk-taking and greater shares of accumulated wealth. This result holds even though the two types are calibrated to be identically risk-averse when expected tracking error equals zero. In the equilibrium model, increased aggregate levels of risk-taking reduce the returns on risk. Therefore, the net social effect of tracking-error-induced risk-taking is potentially ambiguous. This paper shows, however, that tracking error promotes a pattern of specialization that helps the economy move towards the path of maximum accumulated wealth.

Suggested Citation

  • Nathan Berg & Donald Lien, 2003. "Tracking error decision rules and accumulated wealth," Applied Mathematical Finance, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(2), pages 91-119.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:apmtfi:v:10:y:2003:i:2:p:91-119
    DOI: 10.1080/1350486032000088912

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Berg, Nathan, 2006. "Behavioral Labor Economics," MPRA Paper 26366, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Nathan Berg & Gerd Gigerenzer, 2007. "Psychology Implies Paternalism? Bounded Rationality may Reduce the Rationale to Regulate Risk-Taking," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 28(2), pages 337-359, February.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:taf:apmtfi:v:10:y:2003:i:2:p:91-119. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Chris Longhurst). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.