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Brigitte Madrian: 'Inertia Can Actually Be a Helpful Thing'

A leading behavioral researcher discusses the importance of setting the right retirement-plan defaults and how the current crisis puts urgency around "rainy day accounts."

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Our guest on the podcast is Dr. Brigitte Madrian, a leading light in the field of behavioral economics. She is the dean and Marriott Distinguished Professor in the Brigham Young University Marriott School of Business. Dr. Madrian has a joint appointment in the Department of Finance and the George W. Romney Institute of Public Service and Ethics.

Household savings and investment behavior have been key focuses of her research, and her work in these areas has influenced the design of 401(k) plans and pension reform legislation. She also uses the lens of behavioral economics to understand health behaviors and improve health outcomes.

 

Background

Brigitte Madrian bio and research archive

Emergency Funds/Decision-Making Under Financial Duress

Intertemporal choice

Beshears, J., Choi, J.J., Iwry, J.M., John, D.C., Laibson, D., & Madrian, B.C. 2020. “Building Emergency Savings Through Employer-Sponsored Rainy Day Accounts.” Tax Policy and the Economy, Vol. 34, National Bureau of Economic Research.

Benartzi, S. 2020. “People Don’t Save Enough for Emergencies, but There Are Ways to Fix That.” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 17, 2020.

Harvey, C.S. 2019. “Unlocking the Potential of Emergency Savings Accounts.” AARP Public Policy Institute, October.

Tergesen, A. 2019. “Employers Help Workers Build Household-Emergency Funds.” The Wall Street Journal, June 13, 2019.

Pension Rights Center. 2019. “How Many Workers Participate in Workplace Retirement Plans?” July 15, 2019.

Eisenberg, R. 2017. "R.I.P. myRA Retirement Account, Gone Too Soon." Forbes.com. July 28, 2017.

Mental accounting

Retirement Savings

Benz, C., & Levine, J. 2020. “What Does the CARES Act Mean for Retirement Accounts?” Morningstar.com. April 3, 2020.

Madrian, B.C., & Shea, D.F. 2000.“The Power of Suggestion: Inertia in 401(k) Participation and Savings Behavior.” The National Bureau of Economic Research, May 2000.

Finke, M. 2015. “Brigitte Madrian’s Power of Suggestion--and How It Improved Retirement.” ThinkAdvisor, Aug. 31, 2015.

Madrian, B.C. 2014. “That Was Easy: The Importance of Auto Features in Promoting Retirement Savings.” AARP Public Policy Institute, October 2014.

Rosenberger, J. 2019. “The Woman Behind the Way You Save for Retirement.” Guideline blog, April 4, 2019.

Choi, J.J., Laibson, D., & Madrian, B.C. 2007. “$100 Bills on the Sidewalk: Suboptimal Investment in 401(k) Plans.” The National Bureau on Economic Research, December 2007.

Choi, J.J., Laibson, D., & Madrian, B.C. 2007. “Mental Accounting in Portfolio Choice: Evidence from a Flypaper Effect.” The National Bureau of Economic Research, September 2007.

Choi, J.J., Laibson, D., & Madrian, B.C. 2001. “For Better or For Worse: Default Effects and 401(k) Savings Behavior.” The National Bureau of Economic Research, December 2001.

Carroll, G.D., Choi, J.J., Laibson, D., Madrian, B.C., & Metrick A. 2005. “Optimal Defaults and Active Decisions.” The National Bureau of Economic Research, January 2005.

Beshears, J., Choi, J.J., Laibson, D., Madrian, B.C., & Skimmyhorn, W.L. 2016. “Does Borrowing Undo Automatic Enrollment’s Effect on Savings?The National Bureau of Economic Research, August 2016.