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Optimal Irrational Behavior

Contrary to the usual presumption that welfare is maximized if consumers behave rationally, we show in a two-period overlapping generations model that there always exists a rule of thumb that can weakly improve upon the lifecycle/permanent-income rule in general equilibrium with irrational households. The market-clearing mechanism introduces a pecuniary externality that individual rational households do not consider when making decisions, but a publically shared rule of thumb can exploit this effect. For typical calibrations, the improvement of the welfare of irrational households is robust to the introduction of rational agents. Generalizing to a more realistic lifecycle model, we find in particular that the Save More Tomorrow Plan can confer higher lifetime utility than the permanent-income rule in general equilibrium.

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Paper provided by Deakin University, Faculty of Business and Law, School of Accounting, Economics and Finance in its series Economics Series with number 2009_01.

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Length: 39
Date of creation: 10 Feb 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:dkn:econwp:eco_2009_01
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  1. Feigenbaum, James & Caliendo, Frank N., 2010. "Optimal irrational behavior in continuous time," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 34(10), pages 1907-1922, October.
  2. James Feigenbaum & Frank N. Caliendo & Emin Gahramanov, 2009. "Optimal Irrational Behavior," Working Papers 200901, Utah State University, Department of Economics and Finance.
  3. Philippe Weil, 2008. "Overlapping generations: the first jubilee," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/13430, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  4. Bullard, James & Feigenbaum, James, 2007. "A leisurely reading of the life-cycle consumption data," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(8), pages 2305-2320, November.
  5. Robert E. Lucas Jr., 2003. "Macroeconomic Priorities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 1-14, March.
  6. Todd W. Allen & Christopher D. Carroll, 2001. "Individual Learning About Consumption," NBER Working Papers 8234, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Jonathan S. Skinner, 1987. "Risky Income, Life Cycle Consumption, and Precautionary Savings," NBER Working Papers 2336, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:118:y:2003:i:2:p:745-784 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Richard H. Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save More Tomorrow (TM): Using Behavioral Economics to Increase Employee Saving," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(S1), pages S164-S187, February.
  10. John Geanakoplos, 2008. "Overlapping Generations Models of General Equilibrium," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000002225, David K. Levine.
  11. Aviad Heifetz & Chris Shannon & Yossi Spiegel, 2004. "What to Maximize if You Must," Discussion Papers 1414, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  12. Larry Blume & David Easley, 2001. "If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich? Belief Selection in Complete and Incomplete Markets," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1319, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  13. Balasko, Yves & Shell, Karl, 1980. "The overlapping-generations model, I: The case of pure exchange without money," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 281-306, December.
  14. Christopher D. Carroll & Miles S. Kimball, 2001. "Liquidity Constraints and Precautionary Saving," NBER Working Papers 8496, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Feigenbaum, James, 2008. "Information shocks and precautionary saving," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 32(12), pages 3917-3938, December.
  16. John Geanakoplos, 2008. "Overlapping Generations Models of General Equilibrium," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1663, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  17. James Feigenbaum, 2006. "Precautionary Saving Unfettered," Computing in Economics and Finance 2006 29, Society for Computational Economics.
  18. Richard H. Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2001. "Naive Diversification Strategies in Defined Contribution Saving Plans," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 79-98, March.
  19. Ayse Imrohoroglu & Selahattin Imrohoroglu & Douglas H. Joines, 2000. "Time inconsistent preferences and Social Security," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 136, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  20. Findley, T. Scott & Caliendo, Frank N., 2010. "Does it pay to be SMarT?," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(03), pages 321-344, July.
  21. Richard Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save more tomorrow: Using behavioral economics to increase employee saving," Natural Field Experiments 00337, The Field Experiments Website.
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