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Rules of thumb in life-cycle savings models

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  • Rodepeter, Ralf

    (Sonderforschungsbereich 504)

  • Winter, Joachim

    () (Mannheim Research Institute for the Economics of Aging (MEA))

Abstract

We analyze life-cycle savings decisions when households use simple heuristics, or rules of thumb, rather than solve the underlying intertemporal optimization problem. The decision rules we explore are a simple Keynesian rule where consumption follows income; a simple consumption rule where only a fraction of positive income shocks is saved; a rule that corresponds to the permanent income hypothesis; and two rules that have been found in experimental studies. Using these rules, we simulate life-cycle savings decisions numerically and compute the utility losses relative to the backwards solution of the intertemporal optimization problem. Our central finding is that the utility losses induced by rule-of-thumb behavior are relatively low. We conclude that behaving optimally, in the sense of solving an intertemporal optimization model, is not only costly, it is also not much better than using simple heuristics. Our results might also explain why optimization models typically fit the main features of empirical data quite well although optimizing behavior itself is frequently rejected.

Suggested Citation

  • Rodepeter, Ralf & Winter, Joachim, 1999. "Rules of thumb in life-cycle savings models," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 99-81, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim;Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.
  • Handle: RePEc:xrs:sfbmaa:99-81
    Note: Financial Support from Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, SFB 504 at the University of Mannheim, is gratefully acknowledged.
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Thomas Post & Helmut Gründl & Hato Schmeiser, 2006. "Portfolio management and retirement: what is the best arrangement for a family?," Financial Markets and Portfolio Management, Springer;Swiss Society for Financial Market Research, vol. 20(3), pages 265-285, September.
    2. Axel Boersch-Supan & Florian Heiss & Alexander Ludwig & Joachim Winter, 2003. "Pension Reform, Capital Markets and the Rate of Return," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 4(2), pages 151-181, May.
    3. Kohei Kubota & Mototsugu Fukushige, 2016. "Rational Consumers," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 57, pages 231-254, February.
    4. Essig, Lothar, 2005. "Methodological aspects of the SAVE data set," Papers 05-17, Sonderforschungsbreich 504.
    5. Berg, Nathan & Hoffrage, Ulrich, 2008. "Rational ignoring with unbounded cognitive capacity," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 792-809, December.
    6. Maier, Andreas, 2010. "Immobilienverzehrprodukte: Potenzielle Profiteure und Nachfragehemmnisse," Thuenen-Series of Applied Economic Theory 115, University of Rostock, Institute of Economics.
    7. Jim Malley & Hassan Molana, 2002. "The Life-Cycle-Permanent-Income Model: A Reinterpretation and Supporting Evidence," Working Papers 2002_17, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow.
    8. Lothar Essig, 2005. "Methodological aspects of the SAVE data set," MEA discussion paper series 05080, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
    9. Jim Malley & Hassan Molana, 2003. "The Life-Cycle-Permanent- Income Hypothesis: A Reinterpretation and Supporting Evidence," Dundee Discussion Papers in Economics 138, Economic Studies, University of Dundee.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth

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