Wharton Pension Research Council Working Papers

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



Policymaker and media attention has recently focused on the rise of the so-called “gig” or freelance employment sector, where workers lack formal long-term relationships with one specific firm. This topic has captured public interest partly because of concern that those engaged in nontraditional work arrangements may lack the opportunity to save in formal retirement plans. This paper examines how the self-employed in Singapore compare to regular employees as well as the unemployed in terms of retirement preparedness, retirement saving, and portfolio diversification. We also investigate the extent to which differences in financial literacy can account for the different behaviors across types of workers. Overall, we find that the self-employed and employees save and invest remarkably similarly. Financial literacy is quite important: respondents scoring one additional correct answer on the FinLit questions have about 3% more net financial wealth, 2% more nonhousing net wealth, and 14% more total wealth than their less savvy counterparts. More financially literate individuals also hold better diversified portfolios over the life cycle.


The research was supported by the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) Academic Research Fund Tier 3 grant with the MOE’s official grant number MOE2013-T3-1-009, the Singapore Management University, and the Pension Research Council/Boettner Center at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.


gig economy, financial literacy, investment, household portfolios, pension, Central Provident Fund, retirement, saving

JEL Code

D14, E21, G11, J32

Working Paper Number


Copyright/Permission Statement

All opinions are solely those of the authors. © 2019 Koh and Mitchell. All rights reserved.


The authors acknowledge excellent programming assistance from Yong Yu and the Singapore Life Panel (SLP®) team at Singapore Management University, as well as the RAND SLP® team.

Included in

Economics Commons



Date Posted: 12 February 2019