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Labor Supply Flexibility and Portfolio Choice


  • Zvi Bodie
  • William Samuelson


This paper develops a model showing that people who have flexibility in choosing how much to work will prefer to invest substantially more of their money in risky assets than if they had no such flexibility. Viewed in this way, labor supply flexibility offers insurance against adverse investment outcomes. The model provides support for the conventional wisdom that the young can tolerate more risk in their investment portfolios than the old. The model has other implications for the study of household financial behavior over the life cycle. It implies that households will take account of the value of labor supply flexibility in deciding how much to invest in their own human capital and when to retire. At the macro level it implies that people will have a labor supply response to shocks in the financial markets.

Suggested Citation

  • Zvi Bodie & William Samuelson, 1989. "Labor Supply Flexibility and Portfolio Choice," NBER Working Papers 3043, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3043
    Note: ME

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Paul A. Samuelson, 2011. "Lifetime Portfolio Selection by Dynamic Stochastic Programming," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: THE KELLY CAPITAL GROWTH INVESTMENT CRITERION THEORY and PRACTICE, chapter 31, pages 465-472 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    2. Merton, Robert C, 1969. "Lifetime Portfolio Selection under Uncertainty: The Continuous-Time Case," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 51(3), pages 247-257, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Masahiko Egami & Hideki Iwaki, 2007. "An optimal life insurance policy in the investment-consumption problem in an incomplete market," Papers 0801.0195,, revised May 2011.
    2. Adeline Delavande & Susann Rohwedder, 2010. "Individuals' Uncertainty about Future Social Security Benefits and Portfolio Choice," Working Papers WR-782, RAND Corporation.
    3. John Y. Campbell, 2006. "Household Finance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 61(4), pages 1553-1604, August.
    4. James M. Poterba & Andrew Samwick, 2001. "Household Portfolio Allocation over the Life Cycle," NBER Chapters,in: Aging Issues in the United States and Japan, pages 65-104 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. James M. Poterba & Joshua Rauh & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2009. "Lifecycle Asset Allocation Strategies and the Distribution of 401(k) Retirement Wealth," NBER Chapters,in: Developments in the Economics of Aging, pages 15-50 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Alan L. Gustman & Olivia S. Mitchell, 1990. "Pensions and the U.S. Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 3331, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Hugo Benitez-Silva, 2000. "A Dynamic Model of Labor Supply, Consumption/Saving, and Annuity Decisions under Uncertainty," Department of Economics Working Papers 00-06, Stony Brook University, Department of Economics.
    8. Hugo Benítez-Silva, 2003. "Labor Supply Flexibility and Portfolio Choice: An Empirical Analysis," Working Papers wp056, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    9. Bodie, Zvi & Merton, Robert C. & Samuelson, William F., 1992. "Labor supply flexibility and portfolio choice in a life cycle model," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 16(3-4), pages 427-449.
    10. Adeline Delavande & Susann Rohwedder, 2011. "Individuals' uncertainty about future social security benefits and portfolio choice," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(3), pages 498-519, April.
    11. Hugo Benítez-Silva, 2003. "The Annuity Puzzle Revisited," Working Papers wp055, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.

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