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Borrowing to Save? The Impact of Automatic Enrollment on Debt

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Listed:
  • John Beshears
  • James J. Choi
  • David Laibson
  • Brigitte C. Madrian
  • William L. Skimmyhorn

Abstract

Does automatic enrollment into a retirement plan increase borrowing outside the plan? We study a natural experiment created when the U.S. Army began automatically enrolling newly hired civilian employees into the Thrift Savings Plan. Four years after hire, automatic enrollment causes no significant change in credit scores (point estimate 0.001 standard deviations) or debt balances excluding auto loans and first mortgages (point estimate -0.6% of annual salary). We also find no significant increase in auto loan and first mortgage balances in our main regression specification, although the estimated increases in these categories are economically and statistically significant in alternative specifications.

Suggested Citation

  • John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & William L. Skimmyhorn, 2019. "Borrowing to Save? The Impact of Automatic Enrollment on Debt," NBER Working Papers 25876, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:25876
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    Cited by:

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    2. Justin Falk & Nadia Karamcheva, 2019. "The Effect of the Employer Match and Defaults on Federal Workers’ Savings Behavior in the Thrift Savings Plan: Working Paper 2019-06," Working Papers 55447, Congressional Budget Office.
    3. Sulka, Tomasz, 2022. "Planning and saving for retirement," DICE Discussion Papers 384, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE).
    4. Goldin, Jacob & Homonoff, Tatiana & Patterson, Richard & Skimmyhorn, William, 2020. "How much to save? Decision costs and retirement plan participation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 191(C).
    5. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell & Noemi Oggero, 2020. "Debt and Financial Vulnerability on the Verge of Retirement," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 52(5), pages 1005-1034, August.
    6. Narayan, Ayushi, 2020. "Does simplifying the college financial aid process matter?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 75(C).
    7. Keane, Claire & O'Malley, Seamus & Tuda, Dora, 2021. "The Distributional Impact of Pension Auto-enrolment," Papers WP707, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
    8. Hendy, Patrick & Slonim, Robert & Atalay, Kadir, 2021. "Unsticking credit card repayments from the minimum: Advice, anchors and financial incentives," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Finance, Elsevier, vol. 30(C).
    9. Beshears, John & Kosowsky, Harry, 2020. "Nudging: Progress to date and future directions," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 161(S), pages 3-19.
    10. John Beshears & James J. Choi & J. Mark Iwry & David C. John & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2020. "Building Emergency Savings through Employer-Sponsored Rainy-Day Savings Accounts," Tax Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(1), pages 43-90.
    11. Mason, Richard, 2019. "Digital enrollment architecture and retirement savings decisions: Evidence from the field," Other publications TiSEM 58639618-e34e-4b5c-8c8c-a, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    12. Olivia S. Mitchell, 2020. "Building Better Retirement Systems in the Wake of the Global Pandemic," NBER Working Papers 27261, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. John Chalmers & Olivia S. Mitchell & Jonathan Reuter & Mingli Zhong, 2021. "Auto-Enrollment Retirement Plans for the People: Choices and Outcomes in OregonSaves," NBER Working Papers 28469, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Roll, Stephen & Grinstein-Weiss, Michal & Gallagher, Emily & Cryder, Cynthia, 2020. "Can pre-commitment increase savings deposits? Evidence from a tax-time field experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 180(C), pages 357-380.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • D15 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Intertemporal Household Choice; Life Cycle Models and Saving

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