Journal of Monetary Economics, Vol. 124, pp.123-139, 2021

Time Preferences over the Life Cycle and Household Saving Puzzles

Most economic models assume that time preferences are stable over time, but the evidence on their long-term stability is lacking. We study whether and how time preferences change over the life cycle, using representative long-term panel data. We provide new evidence that discount rates decrease with age and the decline is remarkably linear over the life cycle. Decreasing discount rates help a canonical life-cycle model explain the saving puzzles of households undersaving when young and oversaving after retirement. Relative to the model with constant discounting, the model’s fit to consumption and asset data profiles improves by 40% and 30%, respectively.