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How Do Retirees Value Life Annuities? Evidence from Public Employees

  • John Chalmers
  • Jonathan Reuter

Economists have long been puzzled by the low demand for life annuities. To shed new light on this puzzle, we study payout choices in the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System, where each retiree must choose between a lump sum and a life annuity. Notably, the average life annuity we study is better than actuarially fair when compared to the lump sum and 85% of retirees choose the life annuity. Whether and how retirees respond to variation in the value of life annuity payments depends crucially on the source of variation. We find strong evidence that demand responds to variation in retiree characteristics. In contrast, we find little evidence that demand responds to plausibly exogenous variation in annuity pricing, which is economically meaningful but less salient. Finally, we find robust evidence that demand for the lump sum increases with recent equity market returns and other salient measures of investor sentiment.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15608.

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Date of creation: Dec 2009
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Publication status: published as John Chalmers and Jonathan Reuter, "How Do Retirees Value Life Annuities? Evidence from Public Employees", Review of Financial Studies, August 2012, Vol. 25, No. 8, 2601-2634.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15608
Note: AG
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