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Financial Literacy and Planning: Implications for Retirement Wellbeing

  • Annamarie Lusardi

    (Dartmouth College)

  • Olivia S. Mitchell

    (Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania)

Only a minority of American households feels “confident” about retirement saving adequacy, and little is known about why people fail to plan for retirement, and whether planning and information costs might affect retirement saving patterns. To better understand these issues, we devised and fielded a purpose-built module on planning and financial literacy for the 2004 Health and Retirement Study (HRS). This module measures how workers make their saving decisions, how they collect the information for making these decisions, and whether they possess the financial literacy needed to make these decisions. Our analysis shows that financial illiteracy is widespread among older Americans only half of the age 50+ respondents could correctly answer two simple questions regarding interest compounding and inflation, and only one-third correctly answered these two questions and a question about risk diversification. Women, minorities, and those without a college degree were particularly at risk of displaying low financial knowledge. We also evaluate whether people tried to figure out how much they need to save for retirement, whether they devised a plan, and whether they succeeded at the plan. In fact, these calculations prove to be difficult: fewer than one-third of our age 50+ respondents ever tried to devise a retirement plan, and only two-thirds of those who tried actually claim to have succeeded. Overall, fewer than one-fifth of the respondents believed they engaged in successful retirement planning. We also find that financial knowledge and planning are clearly interrelated: those who displayed financial knowledge were more likely to plan and to succeed in their planning. Moreover, those who did plan were more likely to rely on formal methods such as retirement calculators, retirement seminars, and financial experts, and less likely to rely on family/relatives or co-workers.

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File URL: http://www.mrrc.isr.umich.edu/publications/Papers/pdf/wp108.pdf
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Paper provided by University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center in its series Working Papers with number wp108.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp108
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  1. Haliassos, Michael & Bertaut, Carol C, 1995. "Why Do So Few Hold Stocks?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 105(432), pages 1110-29, September.
  2. Giovanni Mastrobuoni, 2007. "Do better–informed workers make better retirement choices? A test based on the Social Security Statement," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 51, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  3. John Leahy & Andrew Caplin, 2004. "The Absentminded Consumer," 2004 Meeting Papers 784, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  4. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1998. "Effects of Pensions on Saving: Analysis with Data from the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Working Papers 6681, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Alan L. Gustman & Olivia S. Mitchell & Andrew A. Samwick & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1997. "Pension and Social Security Wealth in the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Working Papers 5912, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Olivia S. Mitchell, 1987. "Worker Knowledge of Pension Provisions," NBER Working Papers 2414, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Ann Huff Stevens & Sewin Chan, 2005. "What You Don’t Know Can’t Help You: Pension Knowledge and Retirement Decision Making," Working Papers 518, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
  8. Olivia S. Mitchell & James Moore & John Phillips, . "Explaining Retirement Saving Shortfalls," Pension Research Council Working Papers 98-13, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  9. James F. Moore & Olivia S. Mitchell, . "Projected Retirement Wealth and Saving Adequacy," Pension Research Council Working Papers 98-1, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  10. Sodini, Paolo & Calvet, Laurent E. & Campbell, John, 2007. "Down or Out: Assessing the Welfare Costs of Household Investment Mistakes," Scholarly Articles 3122488, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  11. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2001. "Choice, Chance, and Wealth Dispersion at Retirement," NBER Chapters, in: Aging Issues in the United States and Japan, pages 25-64 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Esther Duflo & Emmanuel Saez, 2002. "The Role of Information and Social Interactions in Retirement Plan Decisions: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," NBER Working Papers 8885, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Douglas D. Bernheim, . "Financial Illiteracy, Education, and Retirement Saving," Pension Research Council Working Papers 96-7, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  14. Martin Browning & Annamaria Lusardi, 1995. "Household Saving: Micro Theories and Micro Facts," Department of Economics Working Papers 1995-02, McMaster University.
  15. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2009. "How Ordinary Consumers Make Complex Economic Decisions: Financial Literacy and Retirement Readiness," NBER Working Papers 15350, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Emmanuel Saez & Esther Duflo, 2003. "The role of information and social interactions in retirement plan decisions: Evidence from a randomized experiment," Framed Field Experiments 00141, The Field Experiments Website.
  17. 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.
  18. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2003. "Wealth Accumulation And The Propensity To Plan," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1007-1047, August.
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