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Simplification and Saving

Author

Listed:
  • John Beshears
  • James Choi
  • David Laibson
  • Brigitte Madrian

Abstract

Many financial decisions that individuals face are complicated and daunting for those who are not financial experts. One important consequence of this complexity is that individuals procrastinate in making these decisions. In this paper, we evaluate a low-cost intervention designed to simplify the retirement saving decision. Individuals received the opportunity to enroll in their workplace savings plan at a pre-selected contribution rate and asset allocation. By collapsing a multidimensional set of options into a binary choice between the status quo and the pre-selected alternative, this intervention increases participation rates by 10 to 20 percentage points among affected employees. We find that similar mechanisms can be used to increase contribution rates among employees who are already participating.

Suggested Citation

  • John Beshears & James Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte Madrian, 2008. "Simplification and Saving," Yale School of Management Working Papers amz2392, Yale School of Management.
  • Handle: RePEc:ysm:somwrk:amz2392
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    File URL: http://icfpub.som.yale.edu/publications/2392
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    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. Richard H. Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save More Tomorrow (TM): Using Behavioral Economics to Increase Employee Saving," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(S1), pages 164-187, February.
    3. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2004. "For Better or for Worse: Default Effects and 401(k) Savings Behavior," NBER Chapters,in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 81-126 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Gabriel D. Carroll & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2009. "Optimal Defaults and Active Decisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1639-1674.
    5. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2010. "Why Does the Law of One Price Fail? An Experiment on Index Mutual Funds," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 23(4), pages 1405-1432, April.
    6. 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.
    7. Cass R. Sunstein & Richard H. Thaler, 2003. "Libertarian paternalism is not an oxymoron," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 48(Jun).
    8. Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein, 2003. "Libertarian Paternalism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 175-179, May.
    9. Justine S. Hastings & Jeffrey M. Weinstein, 2008. "Information, School Choice, and Academic Achievement: Evidence from Two Experiments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(4), pages 1373-1414.
    10. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2001. "Defined Contribution Pensions: Plan Rules, Participant Decisions, and the Path of Least Resistance," NBER Working Papers 8655, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard Thaler, 2004. "Save more tomorrow: Using behavioral economics to increase employee saving," Natural Field Experiments 00337, The Field Experiments Website.
    12. Eric P. Bettinger & Bridget Terry Long & Philip Oreopoulos & Lisa Sanbonmatsu, 2009. "The Role of Simplification and Information in College Decisions: Results from the H&R Block FAFSA Experiment," NBER Working Papers 15361, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    retirement savings; asset allocation; 401(k) Accepted Paper Series;

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions

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