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Self-Directed Pensions: Gender, Risk, and Portfolio Choices*


I am grateful for valuable comments from Nabanita Datta Gupta, Lena Granqvist, Åsa Olli-Segendorff, Panu Poutvaara, Mikael Priks, Åsa Rosén, Ann-Charlotte Ståhlberg, Annika Sundén, Eskil Wadensjö, and three anonymous referees. I also thank Premiepensionsmyndigheten for providing the data. Financial support from the Jan Wallander and Tom Hedelius Foundation and from the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (FAS) is gratefully acknowledged.


In this paper, I investigate gender differences in financial risk-taking from a new perspective, and I show that gender plays a different role across the risk distribution. To evaluate risk-taking, I exploit portfolio choices following a reform that entitles almost the entire Swedish workforce to choose a risk profile for a part of their public-pension contributions. The novel finding is that portfolio risk does not differ much between the men and women who choose less risky portfolios, while the men who choose risky portfolios take on significantly more risk than do the women who choose risky portfolios. The findings are robust to investors choosing the default alternative, chasing past returns, rebalancing, and different measures of risk-taking.

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