By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®
Personal finance research informs high-quality financial education briefings, publications, and 1:1 financial counseling sessions with clients. Below are findings and implications for practice from four recent studies:
Daily Paychecks – Service members do not get paid daily, but their spouses might. De La Rosa and Tully (2021), using a dataset of over 27,000 consumers, found a positive relationship between payment frequency and discretionary spending. The researchers concluded that “receiving day-by-day paychecks seems to trigger people to spend extra money more than those who are paid less often.” Respondents paid daily reported feeling “wealthier.”
- Implications: As daily paycheck access becomes more widespread, through the use of fintech apps, it is important for financial educators to understand its impact on consumer behavior. This study showed that higher payment frequencies increase discretionary spending and that “the structure of money’s receipt can impact subjective wealth.” Findings from this study can be used to caution employers about introducing daily pay cycles and to inform educational programs to teach workers how to manage daily paychecks.
Social Security Claiming – There are calls to shore up Social Security for younger workers, possibly by increasing full retirement age (FRA). Therefore, this Center for Retirement Research (2021) study of the impact of gradual increases in FRA for Social Security from 65 to 67 is relevant for workers today. Results indicate retirement rates declined among workers age 62 (but not 63 to 65) to compensate for larger penalties from claiming benefits early (vs. what would have happened absent Social Security reform).
- Implications: This study showed that cutting Social Security benefits by increasing full retirement age “moved the needle” and prompted more people to work longer to increase their monthly benefit. Financial practitioners can share these results with clients to encourage them to work longer and to show them the decisions that other older adults made. Some clients may be motivated to act based upon what “people like them” are doing.
Subjective Well-Being – This study by Roll et al. (2021) explored the construct of subjective financial well-being or SFWB (respondents’ self-assessment of their personal finances) using the CFPB Financial Well-Being Scale with a sample of low- and moderate-income (LMI) respondents. The researchers found that financial well-being scores are extremely stable over the short term, making them a useful metric to assess clients financial situation. There were also consistent negative relationships between certain adverse financial experiences and SFWB.
- Implications: LMI individuals may or may not have factored various economic shocks and hardships into their scores. The researchers recommended measuring SFWB several ways in addition to using the CFPB scale, including tools that are sensitive to respondents’ day-to-day lives and objective indicators like income/assets.
Credit Cards – This study by Campbell and Pugliese (2022) explored exchanges of assistance among family members and ways that people access cash in emergency situations. A key finding was that having a credit card is associated with a decreased likelihood of borrowing money from others (and incurring social and psychological costs) because credit cards serve as an alternative source of cash. This effect was moderated by marital status and income (i.e., a lower likelihood of borrowing from others among married and high-income individuals).
- Implications: These findings provide useful insights into the mindset of financially-stressed individuals who are seeking quick cash. For some people, stigmatization and perceived reciprocity of obligations to others may exceed the benefits of receiving assistance. Financial practitioners should not assume that intra-family loans are the best solution for clients or that this suggestion will be received positively.
Campbell, C. & Pugliese, M. (2022). Credit cards and the receipt of financial assistance from friends and family. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 43, 153-168 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10834-021-09751-x
Change to Social Security impacts decisions (2021). Squared Away Blog, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. https://squaredawayblog.bc.edu/squared-away/change-to-social-security-impacts-decisions/
De La Rosa, W. & Tully, S. (2021). The impact of payment frequency on consumer spending and subjective wealth perceptions. SSRN. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3658727
Roll, S., Kondratjeva, O., Bufe, S., Grinstein-Weiss, M., & Skees, S. (2021). Assessing the short-term stability of financial well-being in low- and moderate-income households. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 43, 100-127. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10834-021-09760-w
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