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Consumer Behavior in Financial Markets : The Role of Policy Sumit Agarwal Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and Indian School of Business How Can Behavioral.

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Presentation on theme: "Consumer Behavior in Financial Markets : The Role of Policy Sumit Agarwal Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and Indian School of Business How Can Behavioral."— Presentation transcript:

1 Consumer Behavior in Financial Markets : The Role of Policy Sumit Agarwal Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and Indian School of Business How Can Behavioral Economics Improve Policies Affecting Consumers? European Union Conference 28 th November 2008 *The views are not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

2 2 Introduction Do consumers make mistakes in choosing a credit card contract? Do they learn from their mistake? Do financial mistakes vary by age? Does a homeowners under/over-estimation of his house value impact credit utilization? Do consumers optimally refinance their mortgage? Does direct marketing influence the choice between a home equity loan and line of credit?

3 3 Do consumers make mistakes in choosing a credit card? Unique experiment: a large bank offers consumers 2 choices - Can switch at any time! Optimal choice: consumers expecting to borrow should choose Card (1) consumers expecting not to borrow should choose Card (2) Credit Card 2: 15% Interest Rate No Annual Fee Credit Card 1: 12% Interest Rate $20 Annual Fee

4 4 Do consumers make mistakes in choosing a credit card?

5 5 Do consumers learn from their credit card choice mistake?

6 6 Do they learn from their credit card fee payment mistake?

7 7 Do financial mistakes vary by age?

8 8 Similar U-shaped pattern of mistakes also exist in Small Business Interest Rates Mortgage Interest Rates Auto Loan Interest Rates Credit Card Interest Rates Credit Card Fees (Late, Over Limit, Cash Advance)

9 Do Consumer Optimally Refinance Their Mortgage? Most consumers either refinance too early or too late. Leaving significant money on the table. Optimal refinancing decision is quite difficult – solving a system of differential equations is not trivial. Cannot be done on a hand help calculator. Hence, financial advisors tend to simplify the solution and subscribe to the NPV rule to refinancing - Surveyed top websites (using google.com) and books at B&N and Borders.

10 10 Does direct marketing impact the choice between a home equity loan and line of credit? Who spends the most? Automotive (1):$20.9 billion Retail (2):$18.6 billion Telecom (3):$ 9.9 billion Financial Services (4) :$ 8.5 billion Medicine (5):$ 8.4 billion

11 11 Consumption Motive Borrower Simulation DM Line Offer Walk-in Line Customer DM Loan Offer

12 12 Does Advertisement Impact Mortgage Choice? Mortgage choice is sensitive to the economic environment. Borrowers who received solicitations did not select product in manner consistent with theory. Advertising campaign had persuasive effect.

13 13 Summary of the Findings Answers to the questions I posed earlier Small fraction of consumers make costly financial mistakes. The bigger the mistake, the more likely they learn. Consumer learn to pay 66% lower fee over a five years period. The young and the old tend to make more mistakes. About 40% of the consumers are persuaded by the advertisement and choose the wrong contract About 40% of consumers refinance their mortgages too quickly.

14 14 Policy Implications Effective Solutions Financial Education and Advisors Simplification Defaults Disclosure

15 15 Policy Implications – Financial Education Require consumers to go through financial counseling before they could take a mortgage. Examples: Cook country, Illinois required subprime borrowers to go through financial counseling before taking a mortgage. Marian country, Indiana has a program for the low- income borrowers to go through months of financial education program before they are eligible for a mortgage.

16 16 Policy Implications – Financial Advisors Financial advisors can be helpful: Provide suggestion on the optimal timing for refinancing, choice between an ARM and FRM, and optimal credit card contracts based. But they are costly And time-consuming And rely on consumer input

17 17 Policy Implications – Simplification Mistakes are small when contracts are simple. Choice between two credit cards. Large mistakes in decisions to refinance, choose between ARM/FRM. Provide a web based calculator that can optimally solve the mortgage refinancing problem.

18 18 Policy Implications – Defaults To avoid paying fees (late, over-limit, cash advance) Default option to make a minimum payment fee from the direct checking account. Default option to not allow purchases over the limit. Consent to receive marketing. Other examples include : Car insurance and Car purchase options Defaults may not work because: Investors are not financially literate Investors display an endorsement effect Investors respond adversely to complexity Investors are prone to procrastinate

19 19 Policy Implications - Disclosure Disclosures in financial transactions Truth-In-Lending Good Faith Estimate Privacy disclosures Benefits: Educate consumers and prevent deception Reduce search costs and facilitate Comparison shopping

20 20 Policy Implications - Disclosure Will the disclosure work as intended? How will consumers interpret and understand disclosure? How will it affect consumer decisions? Will it help some consumers but harm others? Can the intent of the disclosure be circumvented? Pitfalls of Disclosure Irrelevant information Too much information Confusing information Misleading information

21 References The Impact of Homeowners Housing Wealth Misestimation on Consumption and Saving Decisions, Real Estate Economics, Vol. 35, Pp Do Consumers Choose the Right Credit Contracts? (with Chomsisengphet, S., C. Liu, and N. Souleles), SSRN WPS Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: The Dynamics of Learning and Backsliding (with Driscoll, J., X. Gabaix, and D. Laibson), SSRN WPS Age of Reason: Financial Decisions over the Life Cycle (with Driscoll, J., X. Gabaix, and D. Laibson), SSRN WPS Optimal Mortgage Refinancing? A Closed Form Solution (with Driscoll, J., and D. Laibson), SSRN WPS Does it Pay to Read Your Junk Mail: Evidence on the Effect of Advertisement on Financial Decisions (with Ambrose, B), SSRN WPS


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