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New Evidence on the Money's Worth of Individual Annuities

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  • Olivia S. Mitchell
  • James M. Poterba
  • Mark J. Warshawsky

Abstract

This paper presents new information on the expected present discounted value of payouts on individual life annuities. The annuity we examine is the single premium immediate life annuity, an insurance product that pays out a nominal level sum as long as the covered person lives, in exchange for an initial lump-sum premium. This annuity offers protection against the risk of someone outliving his saving, given uncertainty about longevity. For reasonable estimates of behavioral parameters, we calculate that individual annuities are currently priced so that retirees without bequest motives should find these policies of substantial value in configuring their portfolios to smooth retirement consumption. We also find that the expected present discounted value of payouts, relative to the initial cost of the annuity, has increased over the last decade. These findings bear on the policy debate regarding the role of individual choice and self-reliance in retirement planning.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6002.

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Date of creation: Apr 1997
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Publication status: published as American Economic Review, vol. 89, no. 5 (December 1999): 1299-1318.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6002

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  1. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Avia Spivak, 1979. "The Family as an Incomplete Annuities Market," UCLA Economics Working Papers 151, UCLA Department of Economics.
  2. Jeffrey R. Brown & Olivia S. Mitchell & James M. Poterba, 1999. "The Role of Real Annuities and Indexed Bonds in an Individual Accounts Retirement Program," NBER Working Papers 7005, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Friedman, Benjamin M & Warshawsky, Mark J, 1990. "The Cost of Annuities: Implications for Saving Behavior and Bequests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 135-54, February.
  4. Feldstein, Martin & Liebman, Jeffrey B., 2002. "Social security," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 32, pages 2245-2324 Elsevier.
  5. Mathewson, G Frank, 1983. "Information, Search, and Price Variability of Individual Life Insurance Contracts," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(2), pages 131-48, December.
  6. Brugiavini, Agar, 1993. "Uncertainty resolution and the timing of annuity purchases," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 31-62, January.
  7. Bernheim, B Douglas, 1991. "How Strong Are Bequest Motives? Evidence Based on Estimates of the Demand for Life Insurance and Annuities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 899-927, October.
  8. Jeffrey R. Brown & James M. Poterba, 1999. "Joint Life Annuities and Annuity Demand by Married Couples," NBER Working Papers 7199, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Benjamin M. Friedman & Mark Warshawsky, 1985. "Annuity Prices and Saving Behavior in the United States," NBER Working Papers 1683, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. John Laitner & F. Thomas Juster, 1993. "New evidence on altruism: a study of TIAA-CREF retirees," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 86, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  11. Andrew B. Abel & Mark Warshawsky, 1987. "Specification of the Joy of Giving: Insights from Altruism," NBER Working Papers 2154, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Orazio P. Attanasio & Hilary Williamson Hoynes, 2000. "Differential Mortality and Wealth Accumulation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 35(1), pages 1-29.
  13. R. Glenn Hubbard, 1988. "Uncertain Lifetimes, Pensions, and Individual Saving," NBER Working Papers 1363, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1986. "IRAs and Saving," NBER Working Papers 1879, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1987. "IRAs and Saving," NBER Chapters, in: The Effects of Taxation on Capital Accumulation, pages 7-52 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Zvi Bodie & John B. Shoven & David A. Wise, 1987. "Issues in Pension Economics," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bodi87-1, May.
  16. Andrew B. Abel, 1985. "Capital Accumulation and Uncertain Lifetimes with Adverse Selection," NBER Working Papers 1664, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Auerbach, A.J. & Kotlikoff, L.J. & Weil, D.N., 1992. "The Increasing Annuitization of the Elderly - Estimates and Implications for Intergenerational Transfers, Inequality and National Saving," Papers 6, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  18. Dahlby, Bev & West, Douglas S, 1986. "Price Dispersion in an Automobile Insurance Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(2), pages 418-38, April.
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  20. Benjamin M. Friedman & Mark Warshawsky, 1988. "Annuity Prices and Saving Behavior in the United States," NBER Chapters, in: Pensions in the U.S. Economy, pages 53-84 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Wilhelm, Mark O, 1996. "Bequest Behavior and the Effect of Heirs' Earnings: Testing the Altruistic Model of Bequests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 874-92, September.
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  23. R. Glenn Hubbard, 1987. "Uncertain Lifetimes, Pensions, and Individual Saving," NBER Chapters, in: Issues in Pension Economics, pages 175-210 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. James M. Poterba, 1997. "The History of Annuities in the United States," NBER Working Papers 6001, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Zvi Bodie & John B. Shoven & David A. Wise, 1988. "Pensions in the U.S. Economy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bodi88-1, May.
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