Gopi Shah Goda, Matthew Levy, Colleen Flaherty Manchester, Aaron Sojourner, Joshua Tasoff

In a nationally-representative sample, we predict retirement savings using survey- based elicitations of exponential-growth bias (EGB) and present bias (PB). We find that EGB, the tendency to neglect compounding, and PB, the tendency to value the present over the future, are highly significant and economically meaningful predictors of retirement savings. These relationships hold controlling for cognitive ability, financial literacy, and a rich set of demographic controls. We address measurement error as a potential confound and explore mechanisms through which these biases may operate. Back of the envelope calculations suggest that eliminating EGB and PB would increase retirement savings by approximately 12 percent.

JEL Codes  
D19: Household Behavior and Family Economics: Other
D91: Intertemporal Consumer Choice; Life Cycle Models and Saving
C83: Survey Methods; Sampling Methods
C10: Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General
household finance
retirement savings
exponential-growth bias
present bias
financial literacy
survey-based elicitations
quasi-hyperbolic discounting