I am an economist researching how individuals, the elderly in particular, make personal finance decisions such as retirement savings and mortgages. I also study how the government regulation impacts the insurance market. I have over 10 years of experience in data analytics, statistical modeling and causal inference.
My current job is an investment strategy analyst at Vanguard Australia, focusing on retirement research. Before that, I received my Ph.D. in Risk and Insurance at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and was a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Sydney Business School. I am an associate investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR) in Australia.
1. Determinants of Early-Access to Retirement Savings: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic (with Hazel Bateman, Isabella Dobrescu, Ben R. Newell, and Susan Thorp)(Journal of the Economics of Ageing, 2023) (working paper version)
Abstract: Australian regulations strictly limit early withdrawals from retirement plan accounts. However, in 2020, the Government made otherwise illiquid plan balances temporarily liquid, offering emergency relief during the pandemic. The COVID-19 Early Release Scheme allowed participants in financial hardship easy access to up to $A20,000 of savings over two rounds. We use administrative and survey data from a large retirement plan to describe how and why participants withdrew savings under the scheme. A majority report that they needed the money immediately but around one quarter said they anticipated future needs. Most thought about the decision for less than a week, acted soon after each round opened, and withdrew as much as they could. Many people did not estimate, or appear to have mis-estimated, the impact the withdrawal could have on their retirement savings. Our findings offer insights into preferences for liquidity. They also raise questions about whether the features of the early release scheme, and their implied endorsement by the Government, influenced some withdrawers more than personal deliberations over financial welfare.
Presented at: ARIA Annual Meeting (2021); China International Conference on Insurance and Risk Management (CICIRM, 2021); 28th Colloquium on Pensions and Retirement Research, UNSW Sydney (by coauthor Ben R. Newell, 2020)
2. Medicaid and Long-Term Care: The Effects of Penalizing Strategic Asset Transfers (with Anita Mukherjee) (Journal of Risk and Insurance, 2021)
Abstract: Medicaid provides a critical source of insurance for long-term care, and individuals may strategically offload assets (typically to children) to meet the means-tested eligibility requirement. In this paper, we quantify the extent of such behavior using variation in the penalty for improper parent-to-child transfers induced by the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. We estimate difference-in-differences models based on the hypothesis that only individuals with high levels of nursing home risk (high risk) will alter transfers because of the Act. We find that over a two-year horizon, high risk individuals reduced transfers to children on the extensive margin by 11 percent and that the average total amount of transfers decreased by $4,860. The results hold only for coupled respondents. We also conduct a triple-differences analysis to examine heterogeneity with financial literacy and find that even those with a low level of financial literacy responded to the penalty.
3. Building Financial and Health Literacy at Older Ages: The Role of Online Information (with Hessam Bavafa and Anita Mukherjee) (Journal of Consumer Affairs, 2019)
Abstract: Improving financial and health literacy is an important step in reducing economic vulnerability in older age, yet the means by which individuals accumulate these types of human capital remains an open question. This paper evaluates the impact of online search activities on the levels of financial and health literacy. We find that using the internet for such information increases literacy significantly: doing so frequently (versus not at all) increases financial literacy by 16 percent and health literacy by 12 percent. Our results are robust to alternative measures of financial literacy. They are also robust to an instrumental variable approach using other web skills such as email use to proxy for how individuals use the internet.
Abstract: Regulation of contracts plays an important role in U.S. financial markets. We estimate the costs of complying with contract regulation by exploiting the rich cross-sectional and time-series variation in regulation in the U.S. property-liability (P/L) insurance industry. We find that the costs of complying with stringent contract regulation are significantly greater than the costs of complying with flexible contract regulation, with the estimate of the difference being 3.1 percent of the general expenses for the average insurer in each line of business and year. Our estimates imply that stringent contract regulation increases expenses in the industry by $1.8 billion per year. The compliance costs are higher in personal lines of insurance. The burden of these costs falls unevenly on insurers, with the regulatory effects isolated to the firms writing less than $5 million in premiums in a line of business per year.
Presented at: SWFA Annual Meeting (2019); University of Wisconsin–La Crosse (2018); Research Blitz, Wisconsin School of Business (2018); ARIA Annual Meeting, Chicago (2018); APRIA-IRFRC Joint Conference, Singapore (2018).
Abstract: We study whether digital technology streamlines the regulatory process and reduces the costs of complying with regulation. To identify the effect of digital technology on regulatory compliance costs, we leverage a quasi-experimental policy change which mandates the use of an internet-based flow management tool that enables insurers and regulators to exchange policy form and rate ling information. We find that digitization lowers the costs of complying with regulation. The average insurer per line of business and year in the highest quartile regarding the proportion of business under the mandate saves 5.4 percent of general expenses. Our results also suggest a fixed cost of adopting the technology, with larger cost-saving accruing to firms that adopt the new technology more widely.
Presented at: FIRN annual meeting (2019); Australian National University (2019), ARIA Annual Meeting, San Francisco (by coauthor Ty Leverty, 2019); EALE-The Geneva Association Joint Seminar, Milan (2019)
Abstract: Complex financial products such as home mortgages have many features and are offered in staggering variety, leading many households to turn to brokers for assistance with their choice of loan, lender and repayment plan. In this study we use stated preference methods – a best-worst task and discrete choice experiment – to build a deeper understanding of how perceptions of mortgage attributes (subjective ratings of confusion and importance) influence borrowers’ valuation of mortgage attributes and how those valuations vary when borrowers have consulted brokers. Analysis of best-worst responses show that most borrowers are highly confused about some common contract features – maximum loan-to-value ratio, compulsory lender’s mortgage insurance and loan portability – but consider the level of interest rate, the ability to make extra repayments and ARM/FRM as the most important attributes. However borrowers who have consulted brokers express generally less confusion and consider a wider range of attributes in their deliberations. Estimates from a hierarchical mixed logit model show that, compared to borrowers who have no experience of using brokers, older broker-advised borrowers place value on avoiding high establishment fees, and younger and more educated broker-advised borrowers are more likely to accept longer loan terms and have a low preference for principal and interest payment schedule and the flexibility of early repayments.
Presented at: 2nd Workshop on Understanding and Overcoming Confusion in Consumer Financial Decision Making, CEPAR (2022); University of Sydney Business Financing and Banking Research Group Annual Workshop (2021); China International Risk Forum (2021); Experimental Finance Conference (2021); Sydney Experimental and Behavioral Research Group Seminars (2021); Philip Brown Seminar, The University of Western Australia (2021); 28th Colloquium on Pensions and Retirement Research, UNSW Sydney (2020)
Work in Progress
7. Political Uncertainty and Insurance Prices (with Ty Leverty)
We examine the effects of political uncertainty on insurance prices using the cross-sectional and time-series heterogeneity in the exogenous electoral cycles of US insurance regulators and governors.
Presented at: WRIEC virtual conference (2020); The University of Sydney Finance Discipline Brownbag (2020); SWFA Annual Meeting (2019)
8. Rate Regulation Revisited: Does Stringent Regulation Impact Insurance Prices? (with Ty Leverty)
This study reinvestigates the effect of stringent rate regulation on prices in the U.S. property-liability industry. Despite a rich literature on insurance rate regulation, the short-term and long-term impact of stringent rate regulation on insurance prices remains unclear. We extend this literature using data at the firm-line-state level, which allows us to estimate fixed effects regressions that exploit different sources of variation in rate regulation – across states, over time, and across lines – to determine whether and how stringent rate regulation affects prices. We find that, on average, stringent rate regulation lowers the unit price of insurance. The magnitude and duration of the influence of stringent rate regulation on price vary over time, with the biggest impact in the early 2000’s during and after a wave of deregulation.
Presented at: ARIA Annual Meeting (2021); China International Conference on Insurance and Risk Management (CICIRM, 2021).
Presented at: 29th Colloquium on Pensions and Retirement Research, UNSW Sydney (2021); CEPAR Annual Staff Workshop (2021); The University of Sydney Finance Discipline Brownbag (2021)
11. Time-Varying Risk Aversion and Investment Switching: Evidence from an Australian Superannuation Fund (with Kiarna Rosandic, Susan Thorp, and Shang Wu)
12. Annuities: Whose Cup of Tea?, Retirement Income Institute Literature Review, December 2020.
13. 20K now or 50K later? What’s driving people’s decision to withdraw their super? (with Hazel Bateman, Robbie Campo, David Constable, Isabella Dobrescu, Ailsa Goodwin, Ben R. Newell, and Susan Thorp), CEPAR Industry Report 2020/1.
14. Reverse Mortgages (with J. Michael Collins and Anita Mukherjee), entry prepared for the Encyclopedia of Gerontology and Population Aging (section: Social Security and Pension Systems), Springer, March 2019.
Referee Service & Other Academic Activities
- Referee, North American Actuarial Journal
- Referee, Journal of Consumer Affairs
- Referee, Journal of Pension Economics and Finance
- Referee, Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning
- Ad hoc Referee, The Journal of the Economics of Ageing
- Hagen Travel Award Committee, American Risk and Insurance Association, 2020
- Invited Participant, FMA Doctoral Student Consortium, San Diego, 2018
- Invited Participant, Ph.D. Student Research Symposium, University of Georgia, 2018
- Annual CEAR-Huebner Summer Risk Institute, Georgia State University, 2017
- Invited Participant, Price Theory Summer Camp, University of Chicago, 2016
Teaching and Supervision
- Course Coordinator and Lecturer, BUSS4001 Business Honours Research Methods, University of Sydney Business School, 2021
- Foundational research design and methodology class for Business Honours students
- Honours Thesis Supervisor, University of Sydney Business School, 2021
- Teaching Assistant, RMI 300 Principles of Risk Management, Wisconsin School of Business, Fall 2018-Spring 2019
- Core course for the Risk Management and Insurance major
- Developed weekly in-class and homework exercise and exam questions
- Lecturer, ACT SCI 300 Actuarial Science Methods I,Wisconsin School of Business, Spring 2017
- University-wide Exam P (Probability) review course for undergraduates
- Developed the syllabus, lecture notes, weekly in-class and homework exercise
- Head Teaching Assistant, GEN BUS 306 Business Analytics I, Wisconsin School of Business, Fall 2017
- Core course on analytical skills for business undergraduates
- Planned weekly discussion sections and coordinated fellow TAs in teaching
- Teaching Assisant, GEN BUS 306 Business Analytics I, Wisconsin School of Business, Spring 2015-Fall 2016
- Received Dean’s letter of recognition for designing and implementing an auto-grading system of case projects for 600+ students each semester
- Developed weekly discussion sections and taught 500+ students in 5 semesters
- Probability (P);
- Financial Mathematics (FM);
- Models for Financial Economics (MFE);
- Life Contingencies and Statistics (3L)
Actuarial Consulting Analyst, Milliman Inc., Shanghai, China, 2013-2014