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Five Steps to Planning Success. Experimental Evidence from U.S. Households

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Listed:
  • Aileen Heinberg
  • Angela A. Hung
  • Arie Kapteyn
  • Annamaria Lusardi
  • Anya Savikhin Samek
  • Joanne Yoong

Abstract

While financial knowledge has been linked to improved financial behavior, there is little consensus on the value of financial education, in part because rigorous evaluation of various programs has yielded mixed results. However, given the heterogeneity of financial education programs in the literature, focusing on "generic" financial education can be inappropriate and even misleading. Lusardi (2009) and others argue that pedagogy and delivery matter significantly. In this paper, we design and field a low-cost, easily-replicable financial education program called "Five Steps," covering five basic financial planning concepts that relate to retirement. We conduct a field experiment to evaluate the overall impact of "Five Steps" on a probability sample of the American population. In different treatment arms, we quantify the relative impact of delivering the program through video and narrative formats. Our results show that short videos and narratives (each takes about three minutes) have sizable short-run effects on objective measures of respondent knowledge. Moreover, keeping informational content relatively constant, format has significant effects on other psychological levers of behavioral change: effects on motivation and self-efficacy are significantly higher when videos are used, which ultimately influences knowledge acquisition. Follow-up tests of respondents' knowledge approximately eight months after the interventions suggest that between one-quarter and one-third of the knowledge gains and about one-fifth of the self-efficacy gains persist. Thus, this simple program has effects both in the short run and medium run.

Suggested Citation

  • Aileen Heinberg & Angela A. Hung & Arie Kapteyn & Annamaria Lusardi & Anya Savikhin Samek & Joanne Yoong, 2014. "Five Steps to Planning Success. Experimental Evidence from U.S. Households," NBER Working Papers 20203, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20203
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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 164-187, February.
    2. Bernheim, B. Douglas & Garrett, Daniel M. & Maki, Dean M., 2001. "Education and saving:: The long-term effects of high school financial curriculum mandates," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(3), pages 435-465, June.
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    4. 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.
    5. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2008. "Planning and Financial Literacy: How Do Women Fare?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 413-417, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. John A. List & Robert Metcalfe, 2014. "Field experiments in the developed world: an introduction," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 30(4), pages 585-596.
    2. Edward Hubbard & Percival Matthews & Anya Samek, 2016. "Using online compound interest tools to improve financial literacy," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(2), pages 106-120, April.
    3. Kai Yuan Kuan & Mark R. Cullen & Sepideh Modrek, 2015. "Racial Disparities in Savings Behavior for a Continuously Employed Cohort," NBER Working Papers 20937, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. repec:cup:jpenef:v:16:y:2017:i:03:p:297-323_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Annamaria Lusardi, 2015. "Risk Literacy," Italian Economic Journal: A Continuation of Rivista Italiana degli Economisti and Giornale degli Economisti, Springer;Società Italiana degli Economisti (Italian Economic Association), vol. 1(1), pages 5-23, March.
    6. Lusardi, Annamaria & Samek, Anya & Kapteyn, Arie & Glinert, Lewis & Hung, Angela & Heinberg, Aileen, 2017. "Visual tools and narratives: new ways to improve financial literacy," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 16(03), pages 297-323, July.
    7. Sandro Ambuehl & B. Douglas Bernheim & Annamaria Lusardi, 2014. "A Method for Evaluating the Quality of Financial Decision Making, with an Application to Financial Education," NBER Working Papers 20618, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Tim Kaiser & Lukas Menkhoff, 2017. "Does Financial Education Impact Financial Literacy and Financial Behavior, and If So, When?," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 31(3), pages 611-630.
    9. Bruce I. Carlin & Li Jiang & Stephen A. Spiller, 2014. "Learning Millennial-Style," NBER Working Papers 20268, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making

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