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Recent studies show that financial literacy is strongly positively related to household wealth, but there is also substantial cross-sectional variation in both financial literacy and wealth levels. To explore these patterns, the authors develop a calibrated stochastic life cycle model which features endogeneous financial literacy accumulation. Their model generates substantial wealth inequality, over and above what standard lifecycle models produce. This is due to the fact that higher earners typically have more hump-shaped labor income profiles and lower retirement benefits which, when interacted with the precautionary saving motive, boosts their need for private wealth accumulation and thus financial literacy. They show that the fraction of the population which is rationally "financially ignorant" depends on the level of labor income uncertainty as well as the generosity of the retirement system.

This product is part of a deliverable to the Social Security Administration Financial Literacy Research Consortium. Working papers have been approved for circulation by RAND Labor and Population but have not been formally edited or peer reviewed.

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