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What Will My Account Really Be Worth? An Experiment on Exponential Growth Bias and Retirement Saving

Listed author(s):
  • Goda, Gopi Shah
  • Manchester, Colleen Flaherty
  • Sojourner, Aaron

Recent findings on limited financial literacy and exponential growth bias suggest saving decisions may not be optimal because such decisions require an accurate understanding of how current contributions can translate into income in retirement. This study uses a large-scale field experiment to measure how a low-cost, direct-mail intervention designed to inform subjects about this relationship affects their saving behavior. Using administrative data prior to and following the intervention, the authors measure its effect on participation and the level of contributions in retirement saving accounts. Those sent income projections along with enrollment information were more likely to change contribution levels and increase annual contributions relative to the control group. Among those who made a change in contribution, the increase in annual contributions was approximately $1,150. Results from a follow-up survey corroborate these findings and show heterogeneous effects of the intervention by rational and behavioral factors known to affect saving. Finally, they find evidence of behavioral influences on decision-making in that the assumptions used to generate the projections influence the saving response.

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Paper provided by RAND Corporation in its series Working Papers with number 873-2.

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Length: 68 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2012
Handle: RePEc:ran:wpaper:873-2
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  1. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2005. "Reducing the Complexity Costs of 401(k) Participation Through Quick Enrollment(TM)," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000966, UCLA Department of Economics.
  2. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2009. "The Importance of Default Options for Retirement Saving Outcomes: Evidence from the United States," NBER Chapters,in: Social Security Policy in a Changing Environment, pages 167-195 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Olivia S. Mitchell & Gary R. Mottola & Stephen P. Utkus & Takeshi Yamaguchi, 2009. "Default, Framing and Spillover Effects: The Case of Lifecycle Funds in 401(k) Plans," NBER Working Papers 15108, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Gary V. Engelhardt & Anil Kumar, 2007. "Employer Matching and 401(k) Saving: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Chapters,in: Public Policy and Retirement, Trans-Atlantic Public Economics Seminar (TAPES), pages 1920-1943 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Jonathan Skinner, 2007. "Are You Sure You're Saving Enough for Retirement?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(3), pages 59-80, Summer.
  6. repec:eee:jeborg:v:142:y:2017:i:c:p:378-395 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Choi, James J. & Haisley, Emily & Kurkoski, Jennifer & Massey, Cade, 2017. "Small cues change savings choices," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 378-395.
  8. Gopi Shah Goda & Colleen Flaherty Manchester, 2013. "Incorporating Employee Heterogeneity into Default Rules for Retirement Plan Selection," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 48(1), pages 198-235.
  9. B. Douglas Bernheim & Andrey Fradkin & Igor Popov, 2015. "The Welfare Economics of Default Options in 401(k) Plans," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(9), pages 2798-2837, September.
  10. Victor Stango & Jonathan Zinman, 2009. "Exponential Growth Bias and Household Finance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 64(6), pages 2807-2849, December.
  11. Annamaria Lusardi & Punam Anand Keller & Adam M. Keller, 2009. "New Ways to Make People Save: A Social Marketing Approach," NBER Working Papers 14715, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Jonathan Gruber, 2006. "A Tax-Based Estimate of the Elasticity of Intertemporal Substitution," NBER Working Papers 11945, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, 2002. "Limited Asset Market Participation and the Elasticity of Intertemporal Substitution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(4), pages 825-853, August.
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