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Faculty of Economics

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Satchell, S. and J. Williams , O.

Social Welfare Issues of Financial Literacy


Abstract: In the matter of financial literacy it is often supposed that more is automatically preferable to less. This paper considers to what extent this may be true generally, and specifically focuses on the case of investment forecasting skill (a significant component of an individual's financial literacy). We show that the while improved forecasting skill can increase an individual's own utility, the resulting increase in trading volume leads to higher asset price volatility. Under the plausible assumption that this volatility imposes disutility on non-investors, an interesting trade-off is exposed between the benefits of skill improvement which accrue to investors, and the costs suffered more broadly by society. The paper constructs a formal analytic framework in which to discuss these issues, examines under what conditions the marginal utility of skill is in fact monotonic for the individual and considers implications for policy-makers.

Keywords: Financial literacy, welfare, skill, active management, financial crises

JEL Codes: D14 D53 D60 D82 D84 G01 G17 G18 G28


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