The Journal of Marketing Research released a special issue in November that provides new insights on how to improve consumers' financial decisions. The issue, funded by the Russell Sage and Alfred P. Sloan Foundations, features 14 articles by leading scholars from a range of disciplines, including finance, psychology, marketing and behavioral science.
"There are so many academic disciplines that have something to say about consumer financial decision making," said John G. Lynch Jr., the issue’s editor-in-chief. "The objective here was to ask all these people from different fields to be a part of the conversation."
In the wake of the financial crisis, many have expressed concerns about the delivery of consumer financial services and the structure of current regulations. Recent research has also provided abundant evidence of systemic errors in the ways consumers handle their finances.
"Consumers are often poorly informed and susceptible to making serious errors that have great personal and societal consequences," Lynch writes in the issue’s introduction.
The issue analyzes how consumers make core financial decisions, from retirement planning and spending choices to investing in the stock market. Many of the articles also investigate interventions that may help consumers reach their financial goals.
SNAPSHOT OF ARTICLES
- Craig McKenzie and Michael Liersch examine if people save less because they do not fully recognize the power of compound interest. In a series of experiments, they find that showing estimated future 401(k) balances and an illustration of savings growth over 40 years may motivate people to save more.
- Lisa Bolton, Paul Bloom and Joel Cohen study the best way to protect consumers who receive “debt relief” marketing from for-profit firms. They argue consumers should be taught both how particular loans work and how lenders seek to make money.
- Abigail B. Sussman and Christopher Y. Olivola investigate how differences in taxes affect consumer choices. They find that people are more willing to travel to a store to avoid taxes than for a sale with greater nontax savings. This dislike of taxes may explain why people in low marginal tax brackets over-consume tax-exempt municipal bonds.
- Janet Schwartz, Mary Frances Luce and Dan Ariely examine the role of expert advisers in the context of health care spending. They find that patients who trust their health care provider are more reluctant to solicit a second opinion. This reluctance increases the cost of health care without improving its quality by making consumers more likely to accept the expert’s advice to use a more costly procedure.
Lynch’s introduction to the journal can be read below (by permission of the American Marketing Association, which published the journal). Other articles can be downloaded from AMA's website. In the coming week, a sample of the issue’s findings will also be published here at RSF Review.
The issue was funded as part of the Russell Sage Foundation’s effort to explore new lines of behavioral economic research on consumer decision making in order to improve the design of regulatory strategies in retail financial markets. Several members of the Foundation’s consumer finance working group and Behavioral Economics Roundtable helped edit the special issue, including Shlomo Benartzi, George Loewenstein, Dan Ariely, Eric Johnson, John Payne, Stefano DellaVigna, Brigette Madrian, Eldar Shafir, Suzanne Shu and Jon Zinman.