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How Much Can Financial Literacy Help?

  • Luigi Guiso

    (EIEF)

  • Eliana Viviano

    (Bank of Italy)

We merge survey data on a sample of individual investors containing test-based measures of financial literacy with administrative records on their assets holding and trades before, during and after the financial crisis of September 2008. This dataset allows us to design three tests of the benefits of financial literacy by comparing the decisions actually taken by individuals with a dominated alternative. We find that high-literacy investors are better at timing the market, since conditional on exiting the stock market they are more likely to exit before rather than after the crash following the collapse of Lehman Brothers. High-literacy investors are also more likely to trade according to the prescriptions of normative models and to detect intermediaries’ potential conflicts of interest. However, though statistically significant these effects are economically small. In fact, far too many investors, even among those with high literacy, tend to choose the dominated alternative along all dimensions of choice examined. This suggests that literacy may be a poor edge against financial mistakes.

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Paper provided by Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF) in its series EIEF Working Papers Series with number 1325.

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Length: 34 pages
Date of creation: 2013
Date of revision: Sep 2013
Handle: RePEc:eie:wpaper:1325
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  1. Justine Hastings & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2010. "How Financial Literacy and Impatience Shape Retirement Wealth and Investment Behaviors," Working Papers wp233, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  2. Justine S. Hastings & Brigitte C. Madrian & William L. Skimmyhorn, 2013. "Financial Literacy, Financial Education, and Economic Outcomes," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 5(1), pages 347-373, 05.
  3. Inderst, Roman & Ottaviani, Marco, 2012. "How (not) to pay for advice: A framework for consumer financial protection," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(2), pages 393-411.
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  8. Justine S. Hastings & Lydia Tejeda-Ashton, 2008. "Financial Literacy, Information, and Demand Elasticity: Survey and Experimental Evidence from Mexico," NBER Working Papers 14538, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2011. "Financial Literacy Around the World: An Overview," CeRP Working Papers 106, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
  10. Marianne A. Hilgert & Jeanne M. Hogarth & Sondra G. Beverly, 2003. "Household financial management: the connection between knowledge and behavior," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Jul, pages 309-322.
  11. Christelis, Dimitris & Jappelli, Tullio & Padula, Mario, 2008. "Cognitive abilities and portfolio choice," CFS Working Paper Series 2008/35, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  12. Jere R. Behrman & Olivia S. Mitchell & Cindy K. Soo & David Bravo, 2012. "How Financial Literacy Affects Household Wealth Accumulation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(3), pages 300-304, May.
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