The Household Sector

Households constantly make economic decisions concerning such activities as work, job training, retirement planning, and savings versus consumption. We will take most of these decisions as being already made and focus on financial decisions specifically. Essentially, we concern ourselves only with what financial assets households desire to hold.

Even this limited focus, however, leaves a broad range of issues to consider. Most households are potentially interested in a wide array of assets, and the assets that are attractive can vary considerably depending on the household's economic situation. Even a limited consideration of taxes and risk preferences can lead to widely varying asset demands, and this demand for variety is, as we shall see, a driving force behind financial innovation.

8 PART I Introduction

Taxes lead to varying asset demands because people in different tax brackets "transform" before-tax income to after-tax income at different rates. For example, high-tax-bracket investors naturally will seek tax-free securities, compared with low-tax-bracket investors who want primarily higher-yielding taxable securities. A desire to minimize taxes also leads to demand for securities that are exempt from state and local taxes. This, in turn, causes demand for portfolios that specialize in tax-exempt bonds of one particular state. In other words, differential tax status creates "tax clienteles" that in turn give rise to demand for a range of assets with a variety of tax implications. The demand of investors encourages entrepreneurs to offer such portfolios (for a fee, of course!).

Risk considerations also create demand for a diverse set of investment alternatives. At an obvious level, differences in risk tolerance create demand for assets with a variety of risk-return combinations. Individuals also have particular hedging requirements that contribute to diverse investment demands.

Consider, for example, a resident of New York City who plans to sell her house and retire to Miami, Florida, in 15 years. Such a plan seems feasible if real estate prices in the two cities do not diverge before her retirement. How can one hedge Miami real estate prices now, short of purchasing a home there immediately rather than at retirement? One way to hedge the risk is to purchase securities that will increase in value if Florida real estate becomes more expensive. This creates a hedging demand for an asset with a particular risk characteristic. Such demands lead profit-seeking financial corporations to supply the desired goods: observe Florida real estate investment trusts (REITs) that allow individuals to invest in securities whose performance is tied to Florida real estate prices. If Florida real estate becomes more expensive, the REIT will increase in value. The individual's loss as a potential purchaser of Florida real estate is offset by her gain as an investor in that real estate. This is only one example of how a myriad of risk-specific assets are demanded and created by agents in the financial environment.

Risk motives also lead to demand for ways that investors can easily diversify their portfolios and even out their risk exposure. We will see that these diversification motives inevitably give rise to mutual funds that offer small individual investors the ability to invest in a wide range of stocks, bonds, precious metals, and virtually all other financial instruments.

Retirement Planning For The Golden Years

Retirement Planning For The Golden Years

If mutual funds seem boring to you, there are other higher risk investment opportunities in the form of stocks. I seriously recommend studying the market carefully and completely before making the leap into stock trading but this can be quite the short-term quick profit rush that you are looking for if you am willing to risk your retirement investment for the sake of increasing your net worth. If you do choose to invest in the stock market please take the time to learn the proper procedures, the risks, and the process before diving in. If you have a financial planner and you definitely should then he or she may prove to be an exceptional resource when it comes to the practice of 'playing' the stock market.

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