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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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File URL: http://www.deakin.edu.au/buslaw/aef/workingpapers/papers/2009_1.pdf
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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. Philippe Weil, 2008. "Overlapping Generations: The First Jubilee," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(4), pages 115-34, Fall.
  2. Richard Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save more tomorrow: Using behavioral economics to increase employee saving," Natural Field Experiments 00337, The Field Experiments Website.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. John Geanakoplos, 2008. "Overlapping Generations Models of General Equilibrium," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000002225, David K. Levine.
  6. 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.
  7. Christopher D. Carroll & Miles S. Kimball, 2001. "Liquidity Constraints and Precautionary Saving," NBER Working Papers 8496, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. James Feigenbaum, 2006. "Precautionary Saving Unfettered," Working Papers 227, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2006.
  9. Todd W. Allen & Christopher D. Carroll, 2001. "Individual Learning About Consumption," NBER Working Papers 8234, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. 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.
  11. Chris Shannon, 2003. "What to Maximize if You Must," Theory workshop papers 658612000000000044, UCLA Department of Economics.
  12. James Bullard & James Feigenbaum, 2006. "A leisurely reading of the life-cycle consumption data," Working Papers 2003-017, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  13. 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.
  14. James Feigenbaum & Frank N. Caliendo & Emin Gahramanov, 2009. "Optimal Irrational Behavior," Working Papers 200901, Utah State University, Department of Economics and Finance.
  15. 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.
  16. Feigenbaum, James, 2008. "Information shocks and precautionary saving," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 32(12), pages 3917-3938, December.
  17. Jonathan S. Skinner, 1987. "Risky Income, Life Cycle Consumption, and Precautionary Savings," NBER Working Papers 2336, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. John Geanakoplos, 2008. "Overlapping Generations Models of General Equilibrium," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1663, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  19. Lawrence Blume & David Easley, 2001. "If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich? Belief Selection in Complete and Incomplete Markets," Working Papers 01-06-031, Santa Fe Institute.
  20. Kevin X.D. Huang & Frank Caliendo, 2007. "Rationalizing Seven Consumption-Saving Puzzles in a Unified Framework," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0716, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  21. Robert E. Lucas Jr., 2003. "Macroeconomic Priorities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 1-14, March.
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