Optimal Financial Knowledge and Wealth Inequality

We show that financial knowledge is a key determinant of wealth inequality in a stochastic life cycle model with endogenous financial knowledge accumulation, where financial knowledge enables individuals to better allocate lifetime resources in a world of uncertainty and imperfect insurance. Moreover, because of how the US social insurance system works, better-educated individuals have most to gain from investing in financial knowledge. Our parsimonious specification generates substantial wealth inequality relative to a one-asset saving model and one in which returns on wealth depend on portfolio composition alone. We estimate that 30–40 percent of retirement wealth inequality is accounted for by financial knowledge.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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