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26.3.2 Summarizing Life Cycle Hypothesis

Comprehensive guide on the Life Cycle Hypothesis as per the Canadian Securities Course, summarizing various stages of financial life with investment goals, personal, and financial circumstances.

Summarizing the Life Cycle Hypothesis

Table 26.1 summarizes the features of the life cycle hypothesis by showing how investment goals, personal circumstances, and financial circumstances change as people age. This model does not include columns for investment knowledge or risk tolerance because changes in these aspects can apply across the entire life cycle.

Chapter 26 | Working with the Retail Client

Table 26.1 | Summary of the Life Cycle Hypothesis

Stage Investment Goals Personal Circumstances Financial Circumstances
Early earning years: Age 18 to 35 Goals are generally short-term but could have a longer-term component Commitments are light Investment portfolios are small but growing. Typical financial commitment like car payments
Family commitment years: Age 25 to 50 Goals are shorter term with a medium-term component Commitments are at their heaviest Financial burdens such as mortgage payments and childcare expenses increase. Clients tend to have little liquidity
Mature earning years: Age 45 to 60 Goals are medium term with a substantial long-term component Commitments have become more moderate Circumstances have greatly improved. Wealth increases at the highest rate. More focus on asset allocation consistent with the level of risk tolerance
Nearing retirement: Age 55 to 70 Goals tend to shift to the medium term Family commitments become lighter Clients have substantial investment portfolios, with little day-to-day liquidity requirements
Retired: Age 60 and onwards Goals are medium-term in scope; investment portfolio must continue to earn income Family commitments might increase to help grandchildren Financial commitments are light. Portfolios must be able to maintain living standards

Key Observations

  • Investment Goals: Vary according to age and typically move from short-term to medium-term to long-term as clients age.
  • Personal Circumstances: Tend to lighten after the family commitment years and nearing retirement phase.
  • Financial Circumstances: Improve as clients grow older, gaining better wealth-status and heavier investment portfolios typically around retirement age.
  • Risk Tolerance: Generally declines with age, though this can vary among individuals.

The single most important determinant of clients’ asset allocations at any stage is their psychological willingness to bear risk. However, individual circumstances and risk tolerance must always be factored into financial planning.

Practical Application and Individual Planning

While the life cycle model provides a conventional approach to financial planning, it should be considered a guideline. Individual circumstances and distinctions must be acknowledged and tailored solutions should be provided to each client. The model fits many clients, but understand that the diversity in individual lives requires a custom approach.

*Important Factors to Consider:

  • Client’s Personal Situation: Unique circumstances, goals, and aspirations.
  • Financial Position and Responsibilities: Current finance health, future targets, and liabilities.
  • Tolerance for Risk: Assess deeply and plan investments appropriately.
  • Investment Knowledge: Guide clients based on their levels of comfort with financial instruments.

By thoroughly assessing these factors and aligning them with clients’ expressed needs, advisors can help set precise investment objectives results effectively.

Summary FAQ

Q1: What is the key emphasis of the life cycle hypothesis?

A1: The life cycle hypothesis emphasizes understanding how investment goals, personal and financial circumstances change at different life stages, guiding the asset allocation and financial planning relative to age and individual circumstances.

Q2: Does risk tolerance steady or fluctuate as per the life cycle hypothesis?

A2: Risk tolerance generally declines with age, although exceptions do exist. Detailed individual assessment is essential.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are some typical financial commitments during the family-commitment years (Age 25 to 50)?

    • Typical commitments include mortgage payments, childcare expenses, and often, increased educational and household costs.
  2. Why is asset allocation important in the mature earning years (Age 45 to 60)?

    • During these years, individuals accumulate wealth at a higher rate. Proper asset allocation ensures optimized growth while managing risk as retirement nears.
  3. How does risk tolerance influence investment strategy?

    • Risk tolerance affects the choice of investment types, balancing between high-risk high-reward and low-risk stable options, and this balance typically shifts towards lower risk as individuals age.


Utilizing the Life Cycle Hypothesis equips financial advisors with a framework enabling holistic analysis over varying life stages vis-à-vis financial planning. Guiding clients through different phases in their lifecycle with adaptable financial strategy ensures meeting both present and future financial goals effectively.

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## According to the life cycle hypothesis, at which life stage are investment portfolios typically small but growing with some commitments? - [x] Early earning years (Age 18 to 35) - [ ] Family commitment years (Age 25 to 50) - [ ] Mature earning years (Age 45 to 60) - [ ] Nearing retirement (Age 55 to 70) > **Explanation:** In the early earning years, individuals typically have small but growing investment portfolios with generally light commitments. ## During which life stage do individuals usually have the heaviest financial burdens such as mortgage payments and childcare expenses? - [ ] Early earning years (Age 18 to 35) - [x] Family commitment years (Age 25 to 50) - [ ] Mature earning years (Age 45 to 60) - [ ] Nearing retirement (Age 55 to 70) > **Explanation:** During the family commitment years, individuals usually have the heaviest financial burdens such as mortgage payments and childcare expenses. ## What is a notable characteristic of the mature earning years (Age 45 to 60)? - [ ] Little liquidity with few commitments - [x] Wealth increases at the highest rate - [ ] Goals shift to long-term - [ ] Investment portfolios are small > **Explanation:** In the mature earning years, wealth tends to increase at the highest rate, and more attention must be paid to aligning asset allocation with the client's risk tolerance. ## At what life stage do people generally begin to have lighter financial commitments and substantial investment portfolios? - [ ] Early earning years (Age 18 to 35) - [ ] Family commitment years (Age 25 to 50) - [ ] Mature earning years (Age 45 to 60) - [x] Nearing retirement (Age 55 to 70) > **Explanation:** Nearing retirement, people generally have lighter financial commitments and substantial investment portfolios. ## During retirement (Age 60 and onwards), what kind of goals and financial commitments do most individuals have? - [ ] Short-term goals with heavy commitments - [ ] Long-term goals with substantial commitments - [x] Medium-term goals with light financial commitments - [ ] Short-term commitments with high risk tolerance > **Explanation:** Retired individuals typically have medium-term goals and light financial commitments, with their portfolios needing to maintain living standards. ## Which life stage involves primarily short-term financial goals but may also involve some longer-term components? - [x] Early earning years (Age 18 to 35) - [ ] Family commitment years (Age 25 to 50) - [ ] Mature earning years (Age 45 to 60) - [ ] Nearing retirement (Age 55 to 70) > **Explanation:** The early earning years generally involve short-term financial goals, but could include a longer-term component. ## How does risk tolerance tend to change with age according to the life cycle hypothesis? - [ ] It increases with age - [ ] It remains constant throughout life - [x] It tends to decline with age - [ ] It fluctuates randomly > **Explanation:** According to the life cycle hypothesis, the psychological willingness to bear risk usually tends to decline with age. ## Which factor is considered the single most important determinant of clients’ asset allocations at any stage? - [ ] Investment knowledge - [ ] Stage of the life cycle - [x] Psychological willingness to bear risk - [ ] Financial commitments > **Explanation:** The most important determinant of clients' asset allocations is their psychological willingness to bear risk, which tends to decline with age. ## What is one of the key financial characteristics during 'Family commitment years' (Age 25 to 50)? - [x] Significant mortgage payments and childcare expenses - [ ] High liquidity and light commitments - [ ] The primary focus on wealth conservation - [ ] Substantial investment portfolios > **Explanation:** During family commitment years, significant financial burdens like mortgage payments and childcare expenses tend to be present. ## Why should the life cycle model be considered a guideline rather than an absolute plan? - [ ] Because it doesn't account for financial circumstances - [ ] Because investment goals stay constant - [x] Because individual circumstances vary and require an individualized approach - [ ] Because it cannot predict market fluctuations > **Explanation:** The life cycle model is a convenient guideline for financial planning, but individual circumstances vary and can require a specialized approach.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2024