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COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY Graduate School of Business Spring 2012 Latest update: 10/31/11 The Psychology and Economics

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY Graduate School of Business

Spring 2012

Latest update: 10/31/11

The Psychology and Economics of Consumer Finance

B8901-001

Tuesday / Thursday, 10:45AM to 12:15PM Uris 301

Professor Eric J. Johnson Norman Eig Professor of Business Columbia Business School

Professor Stephen P. Zeldes Benjamin M. Rosen Professor of Finance and Economics, Columbia Business School

Introduction

514 Uris Hall

ejj3@columbia.edu

212-854-5068

825 Uris Hall

stephen.zeldes@columbia.edu

www.columbia.edu/~spz1

212-854-2492

Business schools all teach multiple courses in Corporate Finance. Until recently none taught Consumer Finance. Yet Consumer Finance is a much larger segment of the economy. In the U.S., households hold $64 trillion in assets, and $17 trillion in liabilities. Corporations hold 1/3 as many assets, and 1/2 as much debt. This course provides a remedy to the imbalance.

The course will be inter-disciplinary -- Johnson is a psychologist and a professor in the Marketing division, and Zeldes is an economist and a professor in the Finance and Economics division. We will bring different perspectives to every topic:

o

What is the economic theory describing how people do behave?

o

What does psychology and behavioral economics contribute to understanding behavior?

o

What are the facts about how consumers actually behave?

What are the

existing markets, institutions, firms, and regulations, both in the U.S. and abroad?

o

What are the opportunities for and barriers to innovating in these markets?

We will examine markets for borrowing (mortgages, credit cards, peer-to-peer lending, payday loans), saving (401(k)s, strategies to promote saving, optimal asset allocation), and insurance (including life, health, and longevity). We will emphasize both how

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people do and how people should make financial decisions, and the implications for financial services firms.

We will use the tools of behavioral economics and psychology to better understand consumer financial decisions and the consumer finance industry. Important new research illustrates how combining insights from psychology and economics can improve our understanding of consumer financial behavior. In their book Nudge, for example, Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler argue that firms and policymakers can design mechanisms to guide people’s choices in a way that improves outcomes yet maintains freedom of choice. The recent financial crisis and continuing debate about consumer financial protection will keep the class lively and yield lots of class content that is “torn from the headlines.”

Students will use the tools of traditional economics, behavioral economics, and psychology to develop new and improved financial products, financial markets, and/or financial public policy.

Why consumer finance? This will be the second time that we have taught this course together. When thinking about introducing this course, we identified several trends that suggested that the introduction of an MBA consumer finance elective was overdue:

Over the last 30 years there has been a global shift from defined-benefit to defined-contribution pension plans, putting decisions about the management of retirement wealth increasingly into the hands of households.

Consumer debt in the U.S. has doubled in size since the late 1970’s, while saving rates have dropped, until recently, to near 0.

This is a ‘hot’ area of research, and new and interesting results are being

published in journals in economics, psychology, and marketing.

goals is to translate these findings into products that will lead to better outcomes.

One of our

The recent financial crisis highlighted the importance of consumer decisions to consumer well-being and to the overall economy (e.g. 401(k) asset allocation, sub-prime mortgages, home foreclosures). There has also been renewed interest (and employment opportunities) in government regulation of the consumer

finance sector.

Protection Bureau.

We plan on having a speaker from the Consumer Financial

Who should take this course? Why? This course should appeal to a wide variety of students:

First, those who want to work for financial services firms, including asset management, banking, and insurance.

Second, those who are interested in consulting, investment banking, or private equity, and need to understand and value firms that provide financial services to consumers.

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Third, those interested in marketing and consumer decisions more generally.

Fourth, those interested in broader public policy issues (consumer finance is at the heart of many important public policy debates, including proposals to create a consumer financial protection agency.)

Finally, the course will be helpful to anyone interested in learning how to better manage his or her own personal finances.

Course structure The course will include lectures, class discussions, guest speakers, case analysis, small assignments, and student group projects and presentations. It will be highly interactive, and you are expected and encouraged to take part in class discussions. Both professors will participate in all of the classes -- we bring different perspectives to these questions, sometime disagree, and we look forward to some lively debates!

Student projects The student team projects will be an important component of the course. Each team will

create or design a new financial product, strategy, financial market, or policy reform that

is drawn from the concepts covered in this course.

experiences, both in the U.S. and abroad, the focus should be on designing something

new.

While teams should draw on past

Teams will be responsible for preparing a short paper summarizing their proposal. In addition, we have allocated two class sessions toward the end of the semester for the teams to present their projects to the class. Each team must turn in a short mid- semester progress report on their project.

Cases and assignments We will use cases during the semester. Some will require short write-ups. There will also be short assignments. We will specify which cases and assignments are to be done individually and which are to be done in teams (one write-up per team).

Panel discussions / outside speakers We will have at least 3 sessions with outside experts

individuals whose companies are start-ups, decision makers featured in the cases, executives with responsibility for introducing new products for large firms, and well known financial writers.

In the past, we have included

Class participation We will be grading your participation in the cases, class discussions, and exercises. We will also use interactive technology in the form of audience response indicators

provided by Turning Technologies.

class and you will carry the same clicker with you throughout the semester.

bring your clicker to every class, and do not lose it. In the case that you do lose it you will need to purchase a replacement. Note that the clickers will be registered to you, so that your responses will available to us to use for class discussion and participation

grading.

The ‘clickers’ will be distributed during the first

Please

We will not use your specific responses for grading without prior

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announcement, but your attendance in class can be ascertained by your responses and may be a part of your participation grade. When asking for your opinions on sensitive issues, we will put the clickers into a mode that makes your responses anonymous.

Class meetings and attendance Classes will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10:45 – 12:15, in Uris 301. Class attendance and participation is important. If for some reason you need to miss class, please let us know in advance via e-mail.

Course materials There is no textbook for the course. Most of the cases and readings will be included in the coursepack and also posted in Angel. Additional materials, including class notes, will be posted in Angel and distributed during the semester.

Course requirements and grading Grades will be based on the assignments and short case write-ups, class participation, a team project, and a final exam, as follows:

Weights for grading

 

Assignments and case write-ups

25

%

Class participation

25

%

Team project

25

%

Final exam

25

%

Office hours We will have weekly office hours (times posted on Angel), and can also meet at other times via appointment. We are also generally available via e-mail. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or feedback about the course.

Teaching assistants There will be two TAs for the course. Their contact information and office hours will be posted in Angel. The TAs will be available to help with the material covered in class and provide guidance on team projects. You can also contact the TAs with questions related to teams, calendar, etc.

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