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The theory of life-cycle saving and investing

  • Zvi Bodie
  • Jonathan Treussard
  • Paul S. Willen

How much should a family save for retirement and for the kids’ college education? How much insurance should they buy? How should they allocate their portfolio across different assets? What should a company choose as the default asset allocation for a mandatory retirement saving plan? We believe that the life-cycle model developed by economists over the last fifty years provides guidance for making such decisions. The theory teaches us to view financial assets as vehicles for transferring resources across different times and outcomes over the life cycle, and that perspective allows households and planners to think about their decisions in a logical and rigorous way. This paper lays out and illustrates the basic analytical framework from the theory in nonmathematical terms, with the aim of providing guidance to financial service providers, consumers, and policymakers.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in its series Public Policy Discussion Paper with number 07-3.

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Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbpp:07-3
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  1. John Campbell & Joao F. Cocco, 2002. "Household Risk Management and Optimal Mortgage Choice," Computing in Economics and Finance 2002 47, Society for Computational Economics.
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  3. Bodie, Zvi & Merton, Robert C. & Samuelson, William F., 1992. "Labor supply flexibility and portfolio choice in a life cycle model," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 16(3-4), pages 427-449.
  4. Dybvig, Philip H, 1995. "Dusenberry's Ratcheting of Consumption: Optimal Dynamic Consumption and Investment Given Intolerance for Any Decline in Standard of Living," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(2), pages 287-313, April.
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  8. Merton, Robert C, 1969. "Lifetime Portfolio Selection under Uncertainty: The Continuous-Time Case," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 51(3), pages 247-57, August.
  9. Fischer, Stanley, 1975. "The Demand for Index Bonds," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(3), pages 509-34, June.
  10. Modigliani, Franco, 1985. "Life Cycle, Individual Thrift and the Wealth of Nations," Nobel Prize in Economics documents 1985-1, Nobel Prize Committee.
  11. Cox, John C. & Ross, Stephen A. & Rubinstein, Mark, 1979. "Option pricing: A simplified approach," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 229-263, September.
  12. He, Hua & Pages, Henri F, 1993. "Labor Income, Borrowing Constraints, and Equilibrium Asset Prices," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 3(4), pages 663-96, October.
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