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Wealth Accumulation and the Propensity to Plan

Author

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  • John Ameriks
  • Andrew Caplin
  • John Leahy

Abstract

Why do similar households end up with very different levels of wealth? We show that differences in the attitudes and skills with which they approach financial planning are a significant factor. We use new and unique survey data to assess these differences and to measure each household's 'propensity to plan.' We show that those with a higher such propensity spend more time developing financial plans, and that this shift in planning effort is associated with increased wealth. The propensity to plan is uncorrelated with survey measures of the discount factor and the bequest motive, raising a question as to why it is associated with wealth accumulation. Part of the answer lies in the very strong relationship we uncover between the propensity to plan and how carefully households monitor their spending. It appears that this detailed monitoring activity helps households to save more and to accumulate more wealth.

Suggested Citation

  • John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2002. "Wealth Accumulation and the Propensity to Plan," NBER Working Papers 8920, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8920
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert B. Barsky & Miles S. Kimball & F. Thomas Juster & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1995. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Working Papers 5213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    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.
    3. Annamaria Lusardi, 2000. "Explaining Why So Many Households Do Not Save," JCPR Working Papers 203, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    4. Brigitte C. Madrian & Dennis F. Shea, 2001. "The Power of Suggestion: Inertia in 401(k) Participation and Savings Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1149-1187.
    5. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2001. "Imperfect Knowledge, Retirement and Saving," Working Papers wp012, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    6. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2007. "Retirement Consumption: Insights from a Survey," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(2), pages 265-274, May.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Matthias Doepke, "undated". "Patience Capital, Occupational Choice, and the Spirit of Capitalism," UCLA Economics Online Papers 410, UCLA Department of Economics.
    2. Robert J. Shiller, 2003. "Social Security and Individual Accounts as Elements of Overall Risk-Sharing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 343-347, May.
    3. Jere R. Behrman & Olivia S. Mitchell & Cindy Soo & David Bravo, 2010. "Financial Literacy, Schooling, and Wealth Accumulation," NBER Working Papers 16452, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. 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.
    5. Melvin Stephens & Takashi Unayama, 2011. "The Consumption Response to Seasonal Income: Evidence from Japanese Public Pension Benefits," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 86-118, October.
    6. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & Steven Laufer & Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh, 2007. "The Joy of Giving or Assisted Living? Using Strategic Surveys to Separate Bequest and Precautionary Motives," NBER Working Papers 13105, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Doepke, Matthias & Zilibotti, Fabrizio, 2005. "Patience Capital and the Demise of the Aristocracy," Seminar Papers 735, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
    8. David Laibson, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-478.
    9. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2011. "Financial literacy and retirement planning in the United States," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(04), pages 509-525, October.
    10. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2011. "Financial literacy around the world: an overview," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(04), pages 497-508, October.
    11. Annamaria Lusardi, 2011. "Americans' Financial Capability," NBER Working Papers 17103, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Jonathan A. Parker, 2013. "LEADS on Macroeconomic Risks to and from the Household Sector," NBER Chapters,in: Risk Topography: Systemic Risk and Macro Modeling, pages 183-203 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Annamarie Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2005. "Financial Literacy and Planning: Implications for Retirement Wellbeing," Working Papers wp108, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    14. Matthias Doepke & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2008. "Occupational Choice and the Spirit of Capitalism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(2), pages 747-793.
    15. Liran Einav & Amy Finkelstein & Iuliana Pascu & Mark R. Cullen, 2012. "How General Are Risk Preferences? Choices under Uncertainty in Different Domains," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(6), pages 2606-2638, October.
    16. Annamaria Lusardi, 2010. "Financial Capability in the United States: Consumer Decision-Making and the Role of Social Security," Working Papers wp226, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    17. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2007. "Retirement Consumption: Insights from a Survey," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(2), pages 265-274, May.
    18. Reis, Ricardo, 2006. "Inattentive consumers," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(8), pages 1761-1800, November.
    19. Hanming Fang & Lauren Nicholas & Daniel Silverman, 2010. "Cognitive Ability and Retiree Health Care Expenditure," Working Papers wp230, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    20. Yvonne McCarthy, 2011. "Behavioural Characteristics and Financial Distress," BCL working papers 59, Central Bank of Luxembourg.
    21. Anderson, C. Leigh & Nevitte, Neil, 2006. "Teach your children well: Values of thrift and saving," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 247-261, April.
    22. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy & Tom Tyler, 2007. "Measuring Self-Control Problems," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 966-972, June.
    23. Geng Li, 2012. "Gamblers as personal finance activists," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2012-18, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    24. Finke, Michael S. & Huston, Sandra J., 2013. "Time preference and the importance of saving for retirement," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 23-34.
    25. Yulei Luo, 2005. "Consumption Dynamics, Asset Pricing, and Welfare Effects under Information Processing Constraints," 2005 Meeting Papers 345, Society for Economic Dynamics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E2 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment
    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior

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