- Investment in financial literacy and saving decisions (2011)
- We present an intertemporal consumption model of consumer investment in financial literacy. Consumers benefit from such investment because their stock of financial literacy allows them to increase the returns on their wealth. Since literacy depreciates over time and has a cost in terms of current consumption, the model determines an optimal investment in literacy. The model shows that financial literacy and wealth are determined jointly, and are positively correlated over the life cycle. Empirically, the model leads to an instrumental variables approach, in which the initial stock of financial literacy (as measured by math performance in school) is used as an instrument for the current stock of literacy. Using microeconomic and aggregate data, we find a strong effect of financial literacy on wealth accumulation and national saving, and also show that ordinary least squares estimates underestate the impact of financial literacy on saving. JEL Classification: E2, D8, G1, J24 Keywords: Financial Literacy, Cognitive Abilities, Human Capital, Saving
- Households’ saving and debt in Italy (2007)
- We review savings trends in Italy, summarizing available empirical evidence on Italians’ motives to save, relying on macroeconomic indicators as well as on data drawn from the Bank of Italy’s Survey of Household Income and Wealth from 1984 to 2004. The macroeconomic data indicate that households’ saving has dropped significantly, although Italy continues to rank above most other countries in terms of saving. We then examine with microeconomic data four indicators of household financial conditions: the propensity to save, the proportion of households with negative savings, the proportion of households with debt, and the proportion of households that lack access to formal credit markets. By international comparison, the level of debt of Italian households and default risk are relatively low. But in light of the deep changes undergone by the Italian pension system, the fall in saving is a concern, particularly for individuals who entered the labor market after the 1995 reform and who have experienced the largest decline in pension wealth. JEL Classification: D91
- A direct test of the buffer-stock model of saving (2007)
- Recent models with liquidity constraints and impatience emphasize that consumers use savings to buffer income fluctuations. When wealth is below an optimal target, consumers try to increase their buffer stock of wealth by saving more. When it is above target, they increase consumption. This important implication of the buffer stock model of saving has not been subject to direct empirical testing. We derive from the model an appropriate theoretical restriction and test it using data on working-age individuals drawn from the 2002 and 2004 Italian Surveys of Household Income and Wealth. One of the most appealing features of the survey is that it has data on the amount of wealth held for precautionary purposes, which we interpret as target wealth in a buffer stock model. The test results do not support buffer stock behavior, even among population groups that are more likely, a priori, to display such behavior. The saving behavior of young households is instead consistent with models in which impatience, relative to prudence, is not as high as in buffer stock models. JEL Classification: D91
- Evidence on the insurance effect of marginal income taxes (2008)
- Marginal income taxes may have an insurance effect by decreasing the effective fluctuations of after-tax individual income. By compressing the idiosyncratic component o personal income fluctuations, higher marginal taxes should be negatively correlated with the dispersion of consumption across households, a necessary implication of an insurance effect of taxation. Our study empirically examines this negative correlation, exploiting the ample variation of state taxes across US states. We show that taxes are negatively correlated with the consumption dispersion of the within-state distribution of non-durable consumption and that this correlation is robust.
- Retirement expectations, pension reforms and their impact on private wealth accumulation (2006)
- We estimate the effect of pension reforms on households' expectations of retirement outcomes and private wealth accumulation decisions exploiting a decade of intense Italian pension reforms as a source of exogenous variation in expected pension wealth. The Survey of Household Income and Wealth, a large random sample of the Italian population, elicits expectations of the age at which workers expect to retire and of the ratio of pension benefits to pre-retirement income between 1989 and 2002. We find that workers have revised expectations in the direction suggested by the reform and that there is substantial offset between private wealth and perceived pension wealth, particularly by workers that are better informed about their pension wealth. Klassifikation: E21, H55
- Cognitive abilities and portfolio choice (2008)
- We study the relation between cognitive abilities and stockholding using the recent Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), which has detailed data on wealth and portfolio composition of individuals aged 50+ in 11 European countries and three indicators of cognitive abilities: mathematical, verbal fluency, and recall skills. We find that the propensity to invest in stocks is strongly associated with cognitive abilities, for both direct stock market participation and indirect participation through mutual funds and retirement accounts. Since the decision to invest in less information-intensive assets (such as bonds) is less strongly related to cognitive abilities, we conclude that the association between cognitive abilities and stockholding is driven by information constraints, rather than by features of preferences or psychological traits.
- Investment in financial literacy, social security and portfolio choice : [version may 21, 2013] (2013)
- We present an intertemporal portfolio choice model where individuals invest in financial literacy, save, allocate their wealth between a safe and a risky asset, and receive a pension when they retire. Financial literacy affects the excess return and the cost of stock market participation. Since literacy depreciates over time and has a cost related to current consumption, investors simultaneously choose how much to save, the portfolio allocation, and the optimal investment in literacy. This last depends on households' resources, its preference parameters and on how much financial literacy affects the returns on risky assets and the stock market participation cost, and the returns on social security wealth. The model implies one should observe a positive correlation between stock market participation (and risky asset share, conditional on participation) and financial literacy, and a negative correlation between the generosity of the social security system and financial literacy. The model also implies that the stock of financial literacy accumulated early in life is positively correlated with the individual's wealth and portfolio allocations later in life. Using microeconomic cross-country data, we find support for these predictions.
- Financial education, literacy and investment attitudes (2015)
- Based on a sample of university students, we provide field and laboratory evidence that a small scale training intervention has a both statistically and economically significant effect on subjective and objective assessments of financial knowledge. We also show that for a large part of students whose self-assessed financial knowledge has improved we do not find an increase in their actual skills.