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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 Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania in its series Pension Research Council Working Papers with number 97-9.

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Publication status: Published in American Economic Review. December 1999: 1299-1318.
Handle: RePEc:wop:pennpr:97-9

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Postal: The Wharton School, 3641 Locust Walk, 304 CPC, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6218
Phone: 215-898-7620
Fax: 215-898-0310
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Web page: http://www.pensionresearchcouncil.org/
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References

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  1. Laitner, John & Juster, F Thomas, 1996. "New Evidence on Altruism: A Study of TIAA-CREF Retirees," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 893-908, September.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Avia Spivak, 1979. "The Family as an Incomplete Annuities Market," UCLA Economics Working Papers 151, UCLA Department of Economics.
  5. B. Douglas Bernheim, 1992. "How Strong are Bequest Motives? Evidence Based on Estimates of the Demand for Life Insurance and Annuities," NBER Working Papers 2942, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. 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.
  8. Benjamin M. Friedman & Mark Warshawsky, 1990. "The Cost of Annuities: Implications for Saving Behavior and Bequests," NBER Working Papers 1682, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. 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.
  10. Rothschild, Michael & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1976. "Equilibrium in Competitive Insurance Markets: An Essay on the Economics of Imperfect Information," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 630-49, November.
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  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Jeffrey R. Brown & Olivia S. Mitchell & James M. Poterba, 2001. "The Role of Real Annuities and Indexed Bonds in an Individual Accounts Retirement Program," NBER Chapters, in: Risk Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform, pages 321-370 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  23. Benjamin M. Friedman & Mark Warshawsky, 1988. "Annuity Prices and Saving Behavior in the United States," NBER Working Papers 1683, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. 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.
  25. Brugiavini, Agar, 1993. "Uncertainty resolution and the timing of annuity purchases," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 31-62, January.
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