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Rational and Behavioral Perspectives on the Role of Annuities in Retirement Planning

  • Jeffrey R. Brown

This paper discusses the role of annuities in retirement planning. It begins by explaining the basic theory underlying the individual welfare gains available from annuitizing resources in retirement. It then contrasts these findings with the empirical findings that so few consumers behave in a manner that is consistent with them placing a high value on annuities. After reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of the large literature that seeks to reconcile these findings through richer extensions of the basic model, this paper turns to a somewhat more speculative discussion of potential behavioral stories that may be limiting demand. Overall, the paper argues that while further extensions to the rational consumer model of annuity demand are useful for helping to clarify under what conditions annuitization is welfare-enhancing, at least part of the answer to why consumers are so reluctant to annuitize will likely be found through a more rigorous study of the various psychological biases that individuals bring to the annuity decision.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w13537.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13537.

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Date of creation: Oct 2007
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Publication status: published as “Understanding the Role of Annuities in Retirement Planning.” In Annamaria Lusardi, ed., Overcoming the Savings Slump: How to Increase the Effectiveness of Financial Education and Saving Programs. University of Chicago Press. 2009. Pp. 178 ­ 206.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13537
Note: AG PE
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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  1. Modigliani, Franco, 1985. "Life Cycle, Individual Thrift and the Wealth of Nations," Nobel Prize in Economics documents 1985-1, Nobel Prize Committee.
  2. Olivia S. Mitchell & James M. Poterba & Mark J. Warshawsky, 1997. "New Evidence on the Money's Worth of Individual Annuities," NBER Working Papers 6002, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Thomas Davidoff & Jeffrey R. Brown & Peter A. Diamond, 2003. "Annuities and Individual Welfare," NBER Working Papers 9714, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Sven H. Sinclair & Kent A. Smetters, 2004. "Health Shocks and the Demand for Annuities: Technical Paper 2004-09," Working Papers 15868, Congressional Budget Office.
  5. James Poterba & Steven Venti & David A. Wise, 2007. "The Changing Landscape of Pensions in the United States," NBER Working Papers 13381, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Avia Spivak, 1979. "The Family as an Incomplete Annuities Market," UCLA Economics Working Papers 151, UCLA Department of Economics.
  7. Saku Aura, . "Does the balance of power within a family matter? The case of the Retirement Equity Act," Working Papers 202, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  8. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2006. "The Importance of Default Options for Retirement Savings Outcomes: Evidence from the United States," NBER Working Papers 12009, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Amy Finkelstein & James Poterba, 2002. "Selection Effects in the United Kingdom Individual Annuities Market," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(476), pages 28-50, January.
  10. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1992. " Advances in Prospect Theory: Cumulative Representation of Uncertainty," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 5(4), pages 297-323, October.
  11. Gale, William G, 1994. "Public Policies and Private Pension Contributions," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 26(3), pages 710-32, August.
  12. Jeffrey Brown, 2012. "Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 26," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number brow11-2, October.
  13. Cassio M. Turra & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2004. "The Impact of Health Status and Out-of-Pocket Medical Expenditures on Annuity Valuation," Working Papers wp086, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  14. 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.
  15. Courtney Coile & Peter Diamond & Jonathan Gruber & Alain Jousten, 1999. "Delays in Claiming Social Security Benefits," NBER Working Papers 7318, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Jeffrey R. Brown & Mark J. Warshawsky, 2001. "Longevity-Insured Retirement Distributions from Pension Plans: Market and Regulatory Issues," NBER Working Papers 8064, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Bernheim, B. Douglas, 1987. "The economic effects of social security : Toward a reconciliation of theory and measurement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 273-304, August.
  18. Brown, Jeffrey R., 2001. "Private pensions, mortality risk, and the decision to annuitize," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 29-62, October.
  19. Laibson, David, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-77, May.
  20. Dushi, Irena & Webb, Anthony, 2004. "Household annuitization decisions: simulations and empirical analyses," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(02), pages 109-143, July.
  21. Jeffrey R. Brown & Peter R. Orszag, 2006. "The Political Economy of Government-Issued Longevity Bonds," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 73(4), pages 611-631.
  22. Alan M Garber, 2001. "Health Care," Levine's Working Paper Archive 391749000000000153, David K. Levine.
  23. Jeffrey R. Brown & Olivia S. Mitchell & James M. Poterba, 2000. "Mortality Risk, Inflation Risk, and Annuity Products," NBER Working Papers 7812, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Jeffrey R. Brown & Amy Finkelstein, 2004. "The Interaction of Public and Private Insurance: Medicaid and the Long-Term Care Insurance Market," NBER Working Papers 10989, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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