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The Cost of Annuities: Implications for Saving Behavior and Bequests

  • Benjamin M. Friedman
  • Mark Warshawsky
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    The fact that most eldealy individuals in the United States choose to maintain a flat age-wealth profile, rather than buy individual life annuities, stands in contrast to central implications of the standard life-cycle model of consumption-saving behavior. The analysis in this paper lends support to an explanation for this phenomenon based either on the cost of annuities, importantly including the element of that cost due to adverse selection, or on the interaction of that cost and an intentional bequest motive. Expected yields offered on individual life annuities in the United States are lower by some 4-6%, or 2 1/2-4 1/2% after allowing for adverse selection, than yields on alternative long-term fixed-income investments. Simulations of an extended model of life-cycle saving and portfolio behavior, allowing explicitly for uncertain lifetimes and Social Security, show that yield differentials in this range can account for the observed behavior, even in the absence of a bequest motive, during the early years of retirement. By contrast, at older ages the combination of yield differentials in this range and a positive bequest motive is necessary to do so.

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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w1682.pdf
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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1682.

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    Date of creation: Aug 1985
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    Publication status: published as The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. CV, Issue 1, pp. 135-154,(February 1990).
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1682
    Note: ME
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    1. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Lawrence H. Summers, 1980. "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers in Aggregate Capital Accumulation," NBER Working Papers 0445, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Sanford J. Grossman & Robert J. Shiller, 1980. "The Determinants of the Variability of Stock Market Prices," NBER Working Papers 0564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. John W. Pratt & David A. Wise & Richard Zeckhauser, 1979. "Price Differences in almost Competitive Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 93(2), pages 189-211.
    4. 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.
    5. Davies, James B, 1981. "Uncertain Lifetime, Consumption, and Dissaving in Retirement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(3), pages 561-77, June.
    6. Friend, Irwin & Blume, Marshall E, 1975. "The Demand for Risky Assets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(5), pages 900-922, December.
    7. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-91, March.
    8. Mirer, Thad W, 1979. "The Wealth-Age Relation among the Aged," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(3), pages 435-43, June.
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