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Revolutionizing retirement planning: Richard Thaler's insights from behavioral economics

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Richard Thaler

Transcript of the video:

Look, I think the practical domain in which we've had the biggest impact is the redesign of retirement plans.

So, in the U.S. you know…well, worldwide we've switched from the old-fashioned defined benefit pension plans that our parents had to defined contribution plans. And we've put humans in charge of figuring out how much to save and how to invest it and they're not very good at it. And we had only half the people joining plans, and even if they joined they weren't saving enough.

So, three behavioural interventions have helped a lot. One is automatic enrollment.

You just change the default; that raises the signup rate to 90 per cent. The UK is in the process of rolling out a nationwide defined contribution retirement plan that uses automatic enrollment. This was very controversial when it was announced five or six years ago. The opt-out rate is less than 10 per cent. So this really works.

The second is, "save more tomorrow" is my name for it, which is allowing people now to increase their contributions later, because we will all have more self-control later.

And then, the third was the creation of good default investment plans, like target date funds, because people aren't very good portfolio managers.

So, now in the U.S. half the big companies use these three things. And that's helping a lot. So if I had to point to one thing it would be that.

[Question #1] - Not pioneering a whole school of thought?


[Question #2] I asked you earlier, where you see all of this going?

Yeah. And the answer I gave is that I hope fifty years from now the field of behavioural economics doesn't exist. Because economics will be as behavioural as it needs to be.

And there's some hope of that. Some of the very best young economists in the world are doing behavioural economics when that's required. And I see that happening. Whether it'll be 50 years or not, I won't be around. But some of you will.

[3.17 minutes]

This video was filmed as part of the Behaviour Science Experts Speaker Series on May 18, 2016.

Richard Thaler is an American economist and the Charles R. Walgreen distinguished service professor of behavioral science and economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. In 2015, Thaler was president of the American Economic Association. In 2015, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and in 2017, he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to behavioural economics.