Three essays on household portfolio choice
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This dissertation considers household portfolio choice at the end of life-cycle. Three essays examine the importance of uncertainty about medical expenditure risk, cognitive aging, and subjective life horizon, and their role in explaining late-life savings decisions and portfolio allocation. Chapter 2 of the dissertation, entitled "Medical expenditure risk and precautionary saving: Evidence from Medicare Part D", tests the presence of precautionary saving motive to cope with medical expenditure risk. By examining Medicare Part D and it's association with household saving, I demonstrate that social insurance programs discourage private saving by reducing health-related uncertainty. Chapter 3 of the dissertation, entitled "Econometric analysis of cognitive abilities and portfolio choice", explores the role of cognitive aging in explaining a portfolio rebalancing towards safer assets at the end of life-cycle. In this essay, I argue that a gradual decrease in risky asset ownership at the end of life-cycle is in part driven by losing cognitive capabilities. I pay particular attention to testing whether such association is observed only on the extensive margin - that is, changes in ownership, or both risky asset ownership and reallocation across the intensive margin are affected. Causality is tested by exploiting exogenous variation in cognitive health, created by the introduction of Medicare Part D in 2006. Chapter 4 of the dissertation, entitled "Subjective life expectancy and portfolio choice: A household bargaining approach", examines collective decision-making when spouses have an incentive to bargain over portfolio allocation. This article starts with two well-known facts: (a) difference in life expectancy between husband and wife; and (b) age disparity in marriage. These two facts imply that females, on average, face 5 or 6 years longer retirement period to finance, and thus have more incentive to hold risky assets to achieve higher expected capital gains in the long-term. A difference in life expectancy then creates an incentive to bargain over how to allocate savings to risky and non-risky assets. The estimation results indeed show that more financial wealth is allocated to risky assets when a spouse with longer life expectancy has the "final say".