Future Orientedness

We develop an index of "future orientedness" based on how an individual’s attitudes to planning for the future, reported in the PSID in the 1970s, predict the growth rate of household wealth many years later. Our results suggest that variation in future orientedness is more about effective planning than about discounting the future. Wives appear to have much less influence than husbands over household savings but transmit future orientedness to offspring more reliably. Variation in future orientedness is distinct from financial sophistication or opportunity, as it also helps to predict non-financial choices, such as smoking, health and the timing of children. Simulation of the cumulative effects over the lifetime suggests that variation in future orientedness increases inequality of wealth at retirement, boosting the Gini coefficient by 10-20%.

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