How Real People Make Long-Term Decisions: The Case of Retirement Preparation

J. Binswanger, K.G. Carman

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A canonical but untested assumption in economics is that choices are determined only by preferences and budget constraints, but not by how people approach decision making. In particular, it is believed that people behave “as if they optimized”, even if they do not engage in any formal planning. We test this empirically in the domain of retirement saving using a specifically designed survey. We find that people who rely on a rule of thumb indeed behave like literal planners/optimizers. However, people without any systematic approach save substantially less. We discuss the implications of this finding.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTilburg
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Publication series

NameCentER Discussion Paper


  • Decision process
  • planning
  • rule of thumb
  • retirement saving
  • household finance


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