YOLO: Mortality Beliefs and Household Finance Puzzles
72 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2015 Last revised: 2 Apr 2020
Date Written: June 1, 2018
We study the effect of subjective mortality beliefs on life-cycle behavior. With new survey evidence, we document that survival is underestimated by the young and overestimated by the old. We calibrate a canonical life-cycle model to elicited beliefs. Relative to calibrations using actuarial probabilities, the young under-save by 26%, and retirees draw down their assets 27% slower, while the model’s fit to consumption data improves by 88%. Cross-sectional regressions support the model's predictions: distorted mortality beliefs correlate with savings behavior while controlling for risk preferences, cognitive, and socioeconomic factors. Overweighting the likelihood of rare events contributes to mortality belief distortions.
Keywords: Subjective beliefs, Savings and consumption decisions, Life cycle model, Household finance, Discount factors, Salience
JEL Classification: D14, G02, G11
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation