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$100 Bills on the Sidewalk: Suboptimal Investment in 401(k) Plans

  • James J. Choi
  • David Laibson
  • Brigitte C. Madrian

It is typically difficult to determine whether households invest optimally. But sometimes, investment incentives are strong enough to create sharp normative restrictions. We identify employees at seven companies who are eligible to receive employer matching contributions in their 401(k) and can make penalty-free withdrawals for any reason. For these employees, contributing less than the match threshold is a dominated action that violates the no-arbitrage condition. Nevertheless, between 20% and 60% contribute below the threshold, losing as much as 6% of their annual pay. Providing employees with information about the free lunch they are foregoing fails to raise contribution rates.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11554.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11554.

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Date of creation: Aug 2005
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Publication status: published as James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2011. "$100 Bills on the Sidewalk: Suboptimal Investment in 401(k) Plans," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(3), pages 748-763, 03.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11554
Note: AG EFG PE
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  1. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2002. "For Better or For Worse: Default Effects and 401(k) Savings Behavior," JCPR Working Papers 256, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  2. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2002. "Defined Contribution Pensions: Plan Rules, Participant Decisions, and the Path of Least Resistance," JCPR Working Papers 257, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
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  8. Amromin, Gene & Huang, Jennifer & Sialm, Clemens, 2007. "The tradeoff between mortgage prepayments and tax-deferred retirement savings," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(10), pages 2014-2040, November.
  9. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2002. "Defined Contribution Pensions: Plan Rules, Participant Choices, and the Path of Least Resistance," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 16, pages 67-114 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Garlappi, Lorenzo & Huang, Jennifer, 2006. "Are stocks desirable in tax-deferred accounts?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(12), pages 2257-2283, December.
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  12. James Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte Madrian, 2006. "Reducing the Complexity Costs of 401(k) Participation Through Quick Enrollment(TM)," NBER Working Papers 11979, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Esther Duflo & William Gale & Jeffrey Liebman & Peter Orszag & Emmanuel Saez, 2006. "Saving Incentives for Low- and Middle-Income Families: Evidence from a Field Experiment with H&R Block," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(4), pages 1311-1346, November.
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  15. Warshawsky, Mark, 1987. "Sensitivity to Market Incentives: The Case of Policy Loans," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 69(2), pages 286-95, May.
  16. Richard Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save more tomorrow: Using behavioral economics to increase employee saving," Natural Field Experiments 00337, The Field Experiments Website.
  17. Gene Amromin, 2003. "Household Portfolio Choices in Taxable and Tax-Deferred Accounts: Another Puzzle?," Review of Finance, Springer, vol. 7(3), pages 547-582.
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