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As Easy as Pie: How Retirement Savers use Prescribed Investment Disclosures

: We report the results of two laboratory experiments that study how university student and staff participants chose retirement savings investment options using ‘user-friendly’ information prescribed by regulators. We demonstrate that choices of more than 20% of participants cannot be predicted using any of the prescribed information items but that 30% of participants used all, or almost all, items, frequently in unexpected ways. A pie-chart showing asset allocation had the largest marginal impact on investment choices. Participants preferred options with more segmented pies (lower concentration) and with equally sized segments (lower deviation froma 1/n allocation). This choice behavior is consistent with the application of a simple diversification heuristic. Participants cannot choose more than one investment but are guided by the extent to which a pre-mixed investment option appears evenly balanced across asset classes. This novel application of a 1/n strategy is distinct from existing findings of naïve diversification in ‘mix-it-yourself’ conditions where participants spread resources evenly across funds or categories. The results highlight that information contained in prescribed investment disclosures may not be used in the manner intended by the regulator. The results also pose interesting methodological questions about the way ‘user-friendly’ information prescribed by regulators is validated before being legislated.

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File URL: http://www.qfrc.uts.edu.au/research/research_papers/rp326.pdf
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Paper provided by Quantitative Finance Research Centre, University of Technology, Sydney in its series Research Paper Series with number 326.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: 01 Mar 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:uts:rpaper:326
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  1. Helena Szrek & Li-Wei Chao & Shandir Ramlagan & Karl Peltzer, 2012. "Predicting (un)healthy behavior: A comparison of risk-taking propensity measures," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 7(6), pages 716-727, November.
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  3. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2009. "How Does Simplified Disclosure Affect Individuals' Mutual Fund Choices?," NBER Working Papers 14859, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard Thaler, 2007. "Heuristics and Biases in Retirement Savings Behavior," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(3), pages 81-104, Summer.
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  7. Sumit Agarwal & Gene Amromin & Itzhak Ben-David & Souphala Chomsisengphet & Douglas Evanoff, 2014. "The Effectiveness of Mandatory Mortgage Counseling: Can One Dissuade Borrowers from Choosing Risky Mortgages?," NBER Working Papers 19920, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Sodini, Paolo & Calvet, Laurent E. & Campbell, John, 2007. "Down or Out: Assessing the Welfare Costs of Household Investment Mistakes," Scholarly Articles 3122488, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  10. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2006. "Simplification and Saving," NBER Working Papers 12659, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  13. Brown, Jeffrey R. & Liang, Nellie & Weisbenner, Scott, 2007. "Individual account investment options and portfolio choice: Behavioral lessons from 401(k) plans," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(10), pages 1992-2013, November.
  14. James Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte Madrian, 2008. "Why Does the Law of One Price Fail? An Experiment on Index Mutual Funds," Yale School of Management Working Papers amz2369, Yale School of Management, revised 05 May 2008.
  15. Gur Huberman & Wei Jiang, 2006. "Offering versus Choice in 401(k) Plans: Equity Exposure and Number of Funds," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 61(2), pages 763-801, 04.
  16. 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.
  17. Christian Ehm & Christine Kaufmann & Martin Weber, 2014. "Volatility Inadaptability: Investors Care About Risk, but Cannot Cope with Volatility," Review of Finance, European Finance Association, vol. 18(4), pages 1387-1423.
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