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Financial Knowledge and Financial Literacy at the Household Level

Author

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  • Alan L. Gustman
  • Thomas L. Steinmeier
  • Nahid Tabatabai

Abstract

This paper uses data from the Health and Retirement Study to explore the mechanism that underlies the robust relation found in the literature between cognitive ability, and in particular numeracy, and wealth, income constant. We have a number of findings. First, the more valuable the pension, the more knowledgeable are covered workers about their pensions. We suggest that causality is more likely to run from pension wealth to pension knowledge, rather than the other way around. Second, most measures of cognitive ability, including numeracy, are not significant determinants of pension and Social Security knowledge. Third, standardizing for incomes and other factors, a pension of higher value does not substitute for other forms of wealth. Rather, counting pensions in total wealth, those with more valuable pensions save more for retirement, other things the same. Fourth, there is no evidence that wealth held outside of pensions is influenced by knowledge of pensions. In sum, numeracy does not influence wealth in whole or in part by affecting financial knowledge of one's pension plan, where financial knowledge of the pension then influences other decisions about retirement saving. These findings raise questions about the mechanism that underlies the relation between cognition, especially numeracy, and wealth. From a policy perspective, they suggest that the numeracy-wealth relation should not be taken as evidence that increasing financial literacy will increase the wealth of households as they enter into retirement.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier & Nahid Tabatabai, 2010. "Financial Knowledge and Financial Literacy at the Household Level," NBER Working Papers 16500, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16500 Note: AG LS PE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. John J. McArdle & James P. Smith & Robert Willis, 2011. "Cognition and Economic Outcomes in the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Chapters,in: Explorations in the Economics of Aging, pages 209-233 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2007. "Baby Boomer retirement security: The roles of planning, financial literacy, and housing wealth," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 205-224, January.
    3. James Banks & Zoe Oldfield, 2007. "Understanding Pensions: Cognitive Function, Numerical Ability and Retirement Saving," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, pages 143-170.
    4. Annamarie Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2005. "Financial Literacy and Planning: Implications for Retirement Wellbeing," Working Papers wp108, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    5. Kristopher S. Gerardi & Lorenz Goette & Stephan Meier, 2010. "Financial literacy and subprime mortgage delinquency: evidence from a survey matched to administrative data," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2010-10, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
    6. Victor Stango & Jonathan Zinman, 2009. "Exponential Growth Bias and Household Finance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 64(6), pages 2807-2849, December.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Gustman, Alan L. & Steinmeier, Thomas L., 2015. "Effects of social security policies on benefit claiming, retirement and saving," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 51-62.
    2. Maarten C.J. van Rooij & Annamaria Lusardi & Rob J.M. Alessie, 2012. "Financial Literacy, Retirement Planning and Household Wealth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 122(560), pages 449-478, May.
    3. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2014. "The Economic Importance of Financial Literacy: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 52(1), pages 5-44, March.
    4. Jappelli, Tullio & Padula, Mario, 2013. "Investment in financial literacy and saving decisions," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(8), pages 2779-2792.
    5. Eloisa Campioni & Vittorio Larocca & Loredana Mirra & Luca Panaccione, 2017. "Financial literacy and bank runs: an experimental analysis," CEIS Research Paper 402, Tor Vergata University, CEIS, revised 07 Jul 2017.
    6. Grohmann, Antonia & Kouwenberg, Roy & Menkhoff, Lukas, 2015. "Childhood roots of financial literacy," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 114-133.
    7. J. Michael Collins & Carly Urban, 2016. "The Role Of Information On Retirement Planning: Evidence From A Field Study," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 54(4), pages 1860-1872, October.
    8. Paiella, Monica, 2016. "Financial literacy and subjective expectations questions: A validation exercise," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 360-374.
    9. Cordero, José Manuel & Gil, María & Pedraja Chaparro, Francisco, 2016. "Exploring the effect of financial literacy courses on student achievement: a cross-country approach using PISA 2012 data," MPRA Paper 75474, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. James P. Smith & John J. McArdle & Robert Willis, 2010. "Financial Decision Making and Cognition in a Family Context," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(548), pages 363-380, November.
    11. Duca, John V. & Kumar, Anil, 2014. "Financial literacy and mortgage equity withdrawals," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(C), pages 62-75.
    12. James P. Smith & John McArdle & Robert Willis, 2010. "Financial Decision Making and Cognition in a Family Context," Working Papers WR-785, RAND Corporation.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies
    • J32 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Nonwage Labor Costs and Benefits; Retirement Plans; Private Pensions

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