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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.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page: http://www.nber.org
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  1. 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.
  2. Olivia S. Mitchell & James M. Poterba & Mark J. Warshawsky, . "New Evidence on the Money's Worth of Individual Annuities," Pension Research Council Working Papers 97-9, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  3. Laibson, David, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-77, May.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Kotlikoff, Laurence J & Spivak, Avia, 1981. "The Family as an Incomplete Annuities Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(2), pages 372-91, April.
  8. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2005. "The importance of default options for retirement saving outcomes: evidence from the United States," CeRP Working Papers 43, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
  9. Jeffrey R. Brown & Amy Finkelstein, 2008. "The Interaction of Public and Private Insurance: Medicaid and the Long-Term Care Insurance Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 1083-1102, June.
  10. Thomas Davidoff & Jeffrey R. Brown & Peter A. Diamond, 2003. "Annuities and Individual Welfare," NBER Working Papers 9714, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. 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.
  12. Modigliani, Franco, 1986. "Life Cycle, Individual Thrift, and the Wealth of Nations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 297-313, June.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Jeffrey R. Brown, 1999. "Private Pensions, Mortality Risk, and the Decision to Annuitize," NBER Working Papers 7191, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. 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.
  17. Sven H. Sinclair & Kent A. Smetters, 2004. "Health Shocks and the Demand for Annuities: Technical Paper 2004-09," Working Papers 15868, Congressional Budget Office.
  18. 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.
  19. Jeffrey R. Brown & Olivia S. Mitchell & James M. Poterba, . "The Role of Real Annuities and Indexed Bonds In An Individual Accounts Retirement Program," Pension Research Council Working Papers 99-2, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  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. 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.
  22. Alan M Garber, 2001. "Health Care," Levine's Working Paper Archive 391749000000000153, David K. Levine.
  23. Jeffrey Brown, 2012. "Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 26," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number brow11-2.
  24. 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.
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