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Annuity Options in Public Pension Plans: The Curious Case of Social Security Leveling

Listed author(s):
  • Robert L. Clark
  • Robert G. Hammond
  • Melinda S. Morrill
  • David Vanderweide
Registered author(s):

    Social Security Leveling is an annuity option that allows participants to receive a level income before and after age 62. The retiree receives a larger pension benefit prior to age 62, but then the pension benefit is lowered at age 62 when the individual is expected to claim Social Security benefits. This option is not uncommon in public pension plans, yet little is known about how this option is used in practice and its impact on well-being in retirement. Our study uses a combination of administrative records and survey data from recent North Carolina public sector retirees. We find that one-third of all retirees selecting a single life annuity between 2009 and 2014 opted for Social Security Leveling. The evidence suggests that individuals are choosing this option in a way that is consistent with their stated preferences and a consumption smoothing motive. However, we also see higher rates of ex post “regret” in the annuity choice among those choosing the level income option.

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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 23262.

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    Date of creation: Mar 2017
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23262
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    1. 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.
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    3. Clark, Robert L. & Morrill, Melinda Sandler & Vanderweide, David, 2014. "Defined benefit pension plan distribution decisions by public sector employees," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 73-88.
    4. Sewin Chan & Ann Huff Stevens, 2008. "What You Don't Know Can't Help You: Pension Knowledge and Retirement Decision-Making," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 253-266, May.
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    7. Novy-Marx, Robert & Rauh, Joshua D., 2011. "Policy options for state pension systems and their impact on plan liabilities," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(02), pages 173-194, April.
    8. Gila Bronshtein & Jason Scott & John B. Shoven & Sita N. Slavov, 2016. "Leaving Big Money on the Table: Arbitrage Opportunities in Delaying Social Security," NBER Working Papers 22853, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Daniel J. Benjamin & Sebastian A. Brown & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2013. "Who Is ‘Behavioral’? Cognitive Ability And Anomalous Preferences," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(6), pages 1231-1255, December.
    10. Shoven, John B. & Slavov, Sita Nataraj, 2014. "Does it pay to delay social security?," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13(02), pages 121-144, April.
    11. John Chalmers & Jonathan Reuter, 2012. "How Do Retirees Value Life Annuities? Evidence from Public Employees," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 25(8), pages 2601-2634.
    12. George-Marios Angeletos, 2001. "The Hyberbolic Consumption Model: Calibration, Simulation, and Empirical Evaluation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 47-68, Summer.
    13. Gopi Shah Goda & Shanthi Ramnath & John B. Shoven & Sita Nataraj Slavov, 2015. "The Financial Feasibility of Delaying Social Security: Evidence from Administrative Tax Data," NBER Working Papers 21544, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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