How does personality contribute to retirement savings?

Wai Chan, Purdue University


The aim of this dissertation was to explore how personality factors explain retirement savings over time. Past studies did not systematically examine individual characteristics on financial preparation for retirement or did not adopt a monetary outcome to exemplify retirement investments. Thus, this dissertation modeled two outcomes for retirement savings, i.e., Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) ownership and IRA balances. Guided by the Investor Behavior Model and the Behavioral Economics Perspective, conscientiousness and personal mastery were hypothesized to bolster IRA investments, while agreeableness and perceived constraints were hypothesized to undermine IRA investments. Multilevel model techniques were applied to depict the trajectory of IRA investments with longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS 2006, 2008, 2010). Findings were partly consistent with hypotheses. The Individual Sample (N = 4,117) documented that higher levels of conscientiousness and personal mastery predicted greater odds of IRA ownership. Perceived constraints were associated with lower odds of IRA ownership, while agreeableness was linked to lower IRA balances. Saving horizons and financial controls were found to partially mediate the relationship between personality factors and IRA investments. Based on the findings from the Individual Sample, a Spousal Sample ( N = 4,257) was developed to examine whether perceived spousal relationship qualities accounted for IRA investments above and beyond personality factors. In addition, perceived spousal relationship qualities were explored to mitigate or accentuate the effects of personality factors. Relationship strain was found to undermine IRA ownership while spousal support was associated with higher IRA balances. Interaction effects of spousal relationships were detected only for exploratory personality traits (i.e., openness and extraversion) for IRA ownership. Overall, findings provided empirical support for theoretical perspectives that include personality factors as impacting retirement preparations. Likewise, personality factors demonstrated differential effects on IRA outcomes. With regard to practical implications, this dissertation provides educators and policymakers with insights to improve the existing financial education and social welfare systems.




Mroczek, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Gerontology|Individual & family studies

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server