Money, Time, and the Stability of Consumer Preferences

Consumers often make product choices that involve the consideration of money and time. Building on dual-process models, the authors propose that these two basic resources activate qualitatively different modes of processing: while money is processed analytically, time is processed more affectively. Importantly, this distinction then influences the stability of consumer preferences. An initial set of three experiments demonstrates that, compared with a control condition free of the consideration of either resource, money consideration generates significantly more violations of transitivity in product choice, while time consideration has no such impact. The next three experiments use multiple approaches to demonstrate the role of different processing modes associated with money versus time consideration in this result. Finally, two additional experiments test ways in which the cognitive noise associated with the analytical processing that money consideration triggers could be reduced, resulting in more consistent preferences.

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Understanding and Improving Consumer Financial Health in America

This research explores the state of financial health in America in a groundbreaking examination of consumer behaviors, attitudes, and preferences. In it, we define seven consumer financial health segments based on a combination of behaviors and attitudes, offering an analysis that goes beyond income, age, education, or credit score.

What are those seven segments and how can you improve the design and delivery of your products to better serve your customers?

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How Poor Are the Poor?

There is a consensus among poverty experts that over the past 50 years there has been some improvement in the condition of the poor.

“Anyone who studies the issue seriously understands that material poverty has continued to fall in the U.S. in recent decades, primarily due to the success of anti-poverty programs” and the declining cost of “food, air-conditioning, communications, transportation, and entertainment,” David Autor, a professor of economics at M.I.T., wrote in response to my query.

Despite the rising optimism, there are disagreements over how many poor people there are and the conditions they live under. There are also questions about the problem of relative poverty, what we are now calling inequality. Poverty cannot be viewed in isolation from the larger economy. We must take disparities in the way the benefits of growth and productivity are distributed into account.

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What Do Subjective Assessments of Financial Well-Being Reflect?

Subjective financial assessments are used by social scientists as a measure of financial well-being and by households as the basis for action. Financial well-being, however, increasingly requires workers to build-up savings to meet hard-to-see future needs, specifically retirement, their children’s education, and paying off student loans.

This paper analyzes data from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s 2012 Financial Capability Survey to test whether subjective financial assessments 1) primarily reflect day-to-day, rather than distant, financial concerns; 2) increasingly reflect distant concerns if the household’s day-to-day finances are in reasonably good shape; and 3) increasingly reflect distant concerns if the worker is financially literate.

The paper found that:

  • Subjective financial assessments primarily reflect day-to-day conditions.
  • This remains the case even if the household’s day-to-day finances are in reasonably good shape.
  • Financial literacy enhances sensitivity to the lack of a retirement plan and having a mortgage greater than the value of one’s house, but it has no noticeable effect on sensitivity to life and medical insurance deficits, having an inactive retirement plan, not saving for college, or student debt burdens.

The policy implications of the findings are…

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Consumer Bankruptcy and Financial Health

This paper estimates the effect of Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection on post-filing financial outcomes using a new dataset linking bankruptcy filings to credit bureau records. Our empirical strategy uses the leniency of randomly-assigned judges as an instrument for Chapter 13 protection. Over the first five post-filing years, we find that Chapter 13 protection decreases an index measuring adverse financial events such as civil judgments and repossessions by 0.316 standard deviations, increases the probability of being a homeowner by 13.2 percentage points, and increases credit scores by 14.9 points. Chapter 13 protection has little impact on open unsecured debt, but decreases the amount of debt in collections by $1,315.

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Risk Literacy

I examine financial literacy — specifically knowledge of risk — using data from surveys in the United States and other countries. I show that risk literacy is very low; the majority of individuals lack knowledge of concepts such as risk diversification and do not understand the relationship between risk and return. Findings are strikingly similar across countries; a third of survey respondents in most countries report that they do not know the answer to risk literacy questions. I also show that risk literacy matters for financial decisions; those who are more knowledgeable about risk are more likely to have precautionary savings and to plan for retirement. Given that individuals have much greater responsibility for their financial well-being before and after retirement than in the past, addressing lack of financial literacy, including risk literacy, may provide new ways to promote saving and financial security.

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American Psychological Association Survey Shows Money Stress Weighing on Americans’ Health Nationwide

Stress in America™ survey finds parents, younger generations and lower-income households have higher stress than others overall

WASHINGTON — While aspects of the U.S. economy have improved, money continues to be a top cause of stress for Americans, according to the new Stress in America™: Paying With Our Health survey released today by the American Psychological Association. According to the survey, parents, younger generations and those living in lower-income households report higher levels of stress than Americans overall, especially when it comes to stress about money.

“Regardless of the economic climate, money and finances have remained the top stressor since our survey began in 2007. Furthermore, this year’s survey shows that stress related to financial issues could have a significant impact on Americans’ health and well-being,” APA CEO and Executive Vice President Norman B. Anderson, PhD, said.

The survey, which was conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of APA among 3,068 adults in August 2014, found that 72 percent of Americans reported feeling stressed about money at least some of the time during the past month. Twenty-two percent said that they experienced extreme stress about money during the past month (an 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale, where 1 is “little or no stress” and 10 is “a great deal of stress”). For the majority of Americans (64 percent), money is a somewhat or very significant source of stress, but especially for parents and younger adults (77 percent of parents, 75 percent of millennials [18 to 35 years old] and 76 percent of Gen Xers…

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One Step Forward Seems Larger Than One Step Back

Consumers often pursue goals (e.g., losing weight) where the chance of attaining the goal increases with some behaviors (e.g., exercise) but decreases with others (e.g., eating). Although goal monitoring is known to be a critical step in self-control for successful goal pursuit, little research investigates whether consumers accurately monitor goal progress. Seven experiments demonstrate that consumers tend to show a progress bias in goal monitoring, perceiving that goal-consistent behaviors (e.g., saving $45) help progress more than goal-inconsistent behaviors of the equivalent size (e.g., spending $45) hurt it. Expectations of goal attainment moderate the progress bias; reducing the expectation that the goal will be reached reduces the tendency to perceive goal-consistent behaviors to have a larger impact on goal progress than equivalent goal-inconsistent behaviors. A study on exercise and eating shows that although the progress bias can increase initial goal persistence, it can also lead to premature goal release due to poor calibration of overall progress.

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Financial well-being: The goal of financial education

A growing consensus is emerging that the ultimate measure of success for financial literacy efforts should be improvement in individual financial well-being. But financial well-being has never been explicitly defined, nor is there a standard way to measure it. This report provides a conceptual framework for defining and measuring success in financial education by delivering a proposed definition of financial well-being, and insight into the factors that contribute to it. This framework is grounded in the existing literature, expert opinion, and the experiences and voice of the consumer garnered through in-depth, one-on-one interviews with working-age and older consumers.

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Is There a Better Way to Deal With Student-Loan Debt?

More flexibility in repayment plans might benefit both borrowers and lenders.

The process of taking out student loans can be nerve-racking, but the reality of paying those loans back can be downright sobering—especially when a looming, large number suddenly becomes very real during the repayment period.

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