Topic: Borrowing to Save? The Impact of Automatic Enrollment on Debt
Speaker: James Choi, Professor of Finance, Yale School of Management
Date: September 19 (Wednesday)
Location: Building 4 Room 101
How much of the retirement savings induced by automatic enrollment is offset by increased borrowing outside the retirement savings plan? We study a natural experiment created when the U.S. Army began automatically enrolling its newly hired civilian employees into the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) at a default contribution rate of 3% of income. Four years after hire, automatic enrollment causes no significant change in debt excluding auto loans and first mortgages (point estimate = 0.9% of income, 95% confidence interval = [-0.9%, 2.7%]). Automatic enrollment does significantly increase auto loan balances by 2.0% of income and first mortgage balances by 7.4% of income. These secured liabilities have muted immediate effects on net worth because they are used to acquire assets, but their increase could signal that automatic enrollment previously decreased non-TSP assets. Larger secured loans could also decrease long-run net worth through greater depreciation and financing costs.
About the speaker:
Professor Choi's research spans behavioral finance, behavioral economics, household finance, capital markets, health economics, and sociology. His work on default options has led to changes in 401(k) plan design at many U.S. corporations and has influenced pension legislation in the United States and abroad. In other papers, he has investigated topics such as the influence of racial, gender, and religious identity on economic preferences, investor ignorance of mutual fund fees, the effect of deadlines and peer information on savings choices, how retail investor sentiment in China affects stock returns, and the use of subtle planning prompts to increase vaccination rates.
Professor Choi is a recipient of the TIAA-CREF Paul A. Samuelson Award for outstanding scholarly writing on lifelong financial security. He is an Associate Director of the Retirement Research Center at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a member of the FINRA Investor Issues Committee, and a TIAA-CREF Institute Fellow.