Optimal Financial Knowledge and Wealth Inequality

52 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2013 Last revised: 10 Sep 2015

See all articles by Annamaria Lusardi

Annamaria Lusardi

George Washington University - Department of Accountancy; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Pierre-Carl Michaud

University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) - Department of Economics; Centre Interuniversitaire sur le Risque, les Politiques Economiques et l'Emploi (CIRPÉE); RAND Corporation, Labor and Population; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Netspar

Olivia S. Mitchell

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 19, 2013

Abstract

While financial knowledge is strongly positively related to household wealth, there is also considerable cross-sectional variation in both financial knowledge and net asset levels. To explore these patterns, we develop a calibrated stochastic life cycle model featuring endogenous financial knowledge accumulation. The model generates substantial wealth inequality, over and above that of standard life cycle models; this is because higher earners typically have more hump-shaped labor income proles and lower retirement benefits which, when interacted with precautionary saving motives, boost their need for private wealth accumulation and thus financial knowledge. Our simulations show that endogenous financial knowledge accumulation has the potential to account for a large proportion of wealth inequality. The fraction of the population which is rationally financially "ignorant" depends on the generosity of the retirement system and the level of means-tested benefits. Educational efforts to enhance financial savvy early in the life cycle so as to produce one percentage point excess return per year would be valued highly by people in all educational groups.

Suggested Citation

Lusardi, Annamaria and Michaud, Pierre-Carl and Mitchell, Olivia S., Optimal Financial Knowledge and Wealth Inequality (February 19, 2013). GFLEC Working Paper Series No. 2014- 002. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2249725 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2249725

Annamaria Lusardi (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Department of Accountancy ( email )

George Washington University School of Business
Washington, DC 20052
United States

HOME PAGE: http://business.gwu.edu/profiles/annamaria-lusardi/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Pierre-Carl Michaud

University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 8888, Downtown Station
Montreal, Quebec H3C 3P8
Canada

Centre Interuniversitaire sur le Risque, les Politiques Economiques et l'Emploi (CIRPÉE) ( email )

Pavillon De Sève
Ste-Foy, Quebec G1K 7P4
Canada

RAND Corporation, Labor and Population ( email )

Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Netspar ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE
Netherlands

Olivia S. Mitchell

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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