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Dementia risk and financial decision making by older households: the impact of information

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  • Joanne W. Hsu
  • Robert J. Willis

Abstract

The knowledge and reasoning ability needed to manage one's finances is a form of human capital. Alzheimer's disease and other dementias cause progressive declines in cognition that lead to a complete loss of functional capacities. In this paper we analyze the impact of information about cognitive decline on the choice of household financial decision-maker. Using longitudinal data on older married couples, we find that as the financial decision maker's cognition declines, the management of finances is eventually turned over to his cognitively intact spouse, often well after difficulties handling money have already emerged. However, a memory disease diagnosis increases the hazard of switching the financial respondent by over 200% for couples who control their retirement accounts (like 401ks) relative to those who passively receive retirement income. This is consistent with a model of the value of information: households with the most to gain financially from preparation are most responsive to information about cognitive decline.

Suggested Citation

  • Joanne W. Hsu & Robert J. Willis, 2013. "Dementia risk and financial decision making by older households: the impact of information," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2013-45, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2013-45
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. James Banks & Cormac O'Dea & Zoë Oldfield, 2010. "Cognitive Function, Numeracy and Retirement Saving Trajectories," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(548), pages 381-410, November.
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    4. Daniel J. Benjamin & Sebastian A. Brown & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2013. "Who Is ‘Behavioral’? Cognitive Ability And Anomalous Preferences," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(6), pages 1231-1255, December.
    5. Laibson, David I. & Agarwal, Sumit & Driscoll, John C. & Gabaix, Xavier, 2009. "The Age of Reason: Financial Decisions over the Life-Cycle with Implications for Regulation," Scholarly Articles 4554335, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    6. Eileen M. Crimmins & Jung Ki Kim & Kenneth M. Langa & David R. Weir, 2011. "Assessment of Cognition Using Surveys and Neuropsychological Assessment: The Health and Retirement Study and the Aging, Demographics, and Memory Study," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 66(suppl_1), pages 162-171.
    7. James Banks & Zoe Oldfield, 2007. "Understanding Pensions: Cognitive Function, Numerical Ability and Retirement Saving," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 28(2), pages 143-170, June.
    8. Sumit Agarwal & John C. Driscoll & Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2009. "The Age of Reason: Financial Decisions over the Life Cycle and Implications for Regulation," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 40(2 (Fall)), pages 51-117.
    9. Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2001. "Psychological Expected Utility Theory and Anticipatory Feelings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 55-79.
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    Cited by:

    1. Padmaja Ayyagari & David Frisvold, 2016. "The Impact of Social Security Income on Cognitive Function at Older Ages Full Access," American Journal of Health Economics, MIT Press, vol. 2(4), pages 463-488, Fall.
    2. Anek Belbase & Geoffrey T. Sanzenbacher, 2016. "Cognitive Impairment and Social Security's Representative Payee Program," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2016-12, Center for Retirement Research.
    3. Johnston, David W. & Kassenboehmer, Sonja C. & Shields, Michael A., 2016. "Financial decision-making in the household: Exploring the importance of survey respondent, health, cognitive ability and personality," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 132(PA), pages 42-61.
    4. Padmaja Ayyagari & David Frisvold, 2015. "The Impact of Social Security Income on Cognitive Function at Older Ages," NBER Working Papers 21484, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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