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How Do Retirees Value Life Annuities? Evidence from Public Employees

  • John Chalmers
  • Jonathan Reuter

Because life annuities can increase the level and decrease the volatility of lifetime consumption, economists have long been puzzled by the low demand for life annuities. One potential rational explanation is that adverse selection drives up life annuity prices, which drives down demand. We study the choice between life annuities and lump sums made by 32,000 retiring public employees. These unique data allow us to extend the existing literature by exploiting economically significant cross-sectional and time-series variation in life annuity pricing. We find little evidence that retiree demand for life annuities rises when life annuity prices fall. We find strong evidence that demand responds to salient variation in individual characteristics, such as health, and to measures of investor sentiment, such as recent equity returns. The Author 2012. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Society for Financial Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com., Oxford University Press.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/rfs/hhs057
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Article provided by Society for Financial Studies in its journal The Review of Financial Studies.

Volume (Year): 25 (2012)
Issue (Month): 8 ()
Pages: 2601-2634

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Handle: RePEc:oup:rfinst:v:25:y:2012:i:8:p:2601-2634
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  1. Motohiro Yogo, 2008. "Portfolio Choice in Retirement: Health Risk and the Demand for Annuities, Housing, and Risky Assets," 2008 Meeting Papers 63, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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  3. Amy Finkelstein & James Poterba, 2000. "Adverse Selection in Insurance Markets: Policyholder Evidence from the U.K. Annuity Market," NBER Working Papers 8045, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  16. Newey, Whitney & West, Kenneth, 2014. "A simple, positive semi-definite, heteroscedasticity and autocorrelation consistent covariance matrix," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 33(1), pages 125-132.
  17. Finkelstein, Amy & Poterba, James & Rothschild, Casey, 2009. "Redistribution by insurance market regulation: Analyzing a ban on gender-based retirement annuities," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(1), pages 38-58, January.
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