Personality Traits and Low Wealth at Retirement


This paper builds on research linking personality traits to saving and wealth by focusing on determinants of very low wealth among American men aged 60–66. There is a strong and robust relationship between personality traits, particularly conscientiousness, and low relative wealth. The size of the effect is similar to those of risk aversion and time preference and is not explained by these factors or by income, age, or family size. The relationship between personality and wealth is found to be specific to people with low relative wealth and is independent of education and financial literacy.

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    The HRS is sponsored by the National Institute on Aging (Grant Number NIA U01AG009740) and is conducted by the University of Michigan (Health and Retirement Study 2010). Many of my variables come from the RAND HRS Data Version K, Produced by the RAND Center for the Study of Aging, with funding from the National Institute on Aging and the Social Security Administration. Santa Monica, CA (March 2010).


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The author is grateful for the assistance and support of the UC, Irvine Economics faculty, in particular David Neumark, Marianne Bitler, and Michael McBride, for their advice on this paper. Thanks also to the referees and editors who reviewed this paper for their excellent suggestions. All errors are my own.

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Correspondence to Meryl Motika.

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Motika, M. Personality Traits and Low Wealth at Retirement. Eastern Econ J 45, 464–476 (2019).

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  • Saving
  • Wealth
  • Personality
  • Retirement

JEL Classification

  • D14 household saving
  • Personal finance