Housing wealth decumulation, portfolio composition and financial literacy among the European elderly
This paper analyses the role played by financial literacy in savings decisions and wealth decumulation. The broad evidence shows that (elderly) households do not decumulate their assets as they age, contradicting the standard life-cycle theory, which predicts that households should decumulate their assets in order to keep their consumption smooth. In particular, older people seem to be very attached to illiquid assets, such as housing wealth, which is far more difficult to liquidate and use to face unexpected shocks and to smooth consumption. Using the SHARE (Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe) survey, we try to detect whether more financial literacy brings about more optimal behaviour from a life-cycle perspective, and we look at the impact of financial literacy on three different dimensions of savings decisions: an unbalanced portfolio with excessive weight assigned to illiquid assets, the optimal consumption path, and housing wealth decumulation. According to our findings, financial literacy substantially reduces the portfolio imbalance of people aged 50+ by reducing the weight of housing wealth over total net worth; at the same time, it is responsible for a more optimal consumption path and for housing wealth decumulation.
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