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The Liquid Hand-to-Mouth: Evidence from a Personal Finance Management Software

Author

Listed:
  • Arna Vardardottir

    (Copenhagen Business School)

  • Michaela Pagel

    (Columbia University)

Abstract

We use a very accurate panel of all individual spending, income, balances, and credit limits from a financial aggregation app and document significant payday responses of spending to the arrival of both regular and irregular income. These payday responses are clean, robust, and homogeneous for all income and spending categories throughout the income distribution. Spending responses to income are typically explained by households' capital structures: households that hold little or no liquid wealth have to consume hand-to-mouth. However, we find that few individuals hold little or no liquidity and also document that liquidity holdings are much larger than predicted by state-of-the-art models explaining spending responses with liquidity constraints due to illiquid savings. Given that present liquidity constraints do not bind, we analyze whether individuals hold cash cushions to cope with future liquidity constraints. To that end, we analyze cash holding responses to income payments inspired by the corporate finance literature. However, we find that individuals' cash responses are consistent with standard models without illiquid savings and neither present nor future liquidity constraints being frequently binding. Because these models are inconsistent with payday responses, the evidence suggests the existence of households that spend heuristically and call those the "liquid hand-to-mouth."

Suggested Citation

  • Arna Vardardottir & Michaela Pagel, 2016. "The Liquid Hand-to-Mouth: Evidence from a Personal Finance Management Software," 2016 Meeting Papers 789, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed016:789
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Scott Ross Baker & Contantine Yannelis, 2017. "Income Changes and Consumption: Evidence from the 2013 Federal Government Shutdown," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 23, pages 99-124, January.
    2. Massenot, Baptiste, 2018. "A business cycle model with neuroeconomic foundations," SAFE Working Paper Series 194, Research Center SAFE - Sustainable Architecture for Finance in Europe, Goethe University Frankfurt.
    3. Cuffe, Harold E. & Gibbs, Christopher G., 2017. "The effect of payday lending restrictions on liquor sales," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 132-145.
    4. Arna Olafsson & Michaela Pagel, 2017. "The Ostrich in Us: Selective Attention to Financial Accounts, Income, Spending, and Liquidity," NBER Working Papers 23945, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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