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Longevity-Insured Retirement Distributions from Pension Plans: Market and Regulatory Issues

  • Jeffrey R. Brown
  • Mark J. Warshawsky

This paper explores the extent to which retirees can and do insure themselves against longevity risk in private pension plans. We first review the theoretical and empirical results on the value of annuities, and discuss reasons why households may choose not to further insure themselves against longevity risk. We then analyze current trends in the private pension market, and find that the shift from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans is likely to reduce annuitization rates among future retirees. This is driven primarily by the fact that the majority of DC plans, such as 401(k) plans, do not even offer participants a life annuity option at retirement. Thus, individuals who wish to annuitize generally must do so in the individual market where payouts are lower due to a healthier mortality pool. Hence, we can forecast that in the coming decades, absent institutional and regulatory changes, overall annuitization rates may fall and households may be increasingly exposed to the risk of outliving their financial resources, while the currently small private individual annuity market may witness significant growth. Finally, we discuss several policy options designed to increase annuitization of retirement resources.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8064.

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Date of creation: Jan 2001
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Publication status: published as Gale, W., J. Shoven and M. Warshawsky (eds.) Public Policies and Private Pensions. Brookings Institution, 2004.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8064
Note: AG PE
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  1. John Laitner & F. Thomas Juster, 1993. "New evidence on altruism: a study of TIAA-CREF retirees," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 86, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  2. Steven F. Venti & James M. Poterba & David A. Wise, 2000. "Saver Behavior and 401(k) Retirement Wealth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 297-302, May.
  3. Benjamin M. Friedman & Mark Warshawsky, 1985. "Annuity Prices and Saving Behavior in the United States," NBER Working Papers 1683, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Jeffrey R. Brown, 1999. "Are the Elderly Really Over-Annuitized? New Evidence on Life Insurance and Bequests," NBER Working Papers 7193, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Avia Spivak, 1979. "The Family as an Incomplete Annuities Market," UCLA Economics Working Papers 151, UCLA Department of Economics.
  6. 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.
  7. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1986. "IRAs and Saving," NBER Working Papers 1879, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1987. "IRAs and Saving," NBER Chapters, in: The Effects of Taxation on Capital Accumulation, pages 7-52 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Brigitte C. Madrian & Dennis F. Shea, 2000. "The Power of Suggestion: Inertia in 401(k) Participation and Savings Behavior," NBER Working Papers 7682, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. COILE, Courtney & DIAMOND, Peter & GRUBER, Jonathan & JOUSTEN, Alain, 2000. "Delays in claiming social security benefits," CORE Discussion Papers 2000029, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  10. James M. Poterba & Mark Warshawsky, 2000. "The Costs of Annuitizing Retirement Payouts from Individual Accounts," NBER Chapters, in: Administrative Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform, pages 173-206 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Jeffrey R. Brown & James M. Poterba, 1999. "Joint Life Annuities and Annuity Demand by Married Couples," NBER Working Papers 7199, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Hurd, Michael D, 1987. "Savings of the Elderly and Desired Bequests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(3), pages 298-312, June.
  13. Benjamin M. Friedman & Mark Warshawsky, 1988. "Annuity Prices and Saving Behavior in the United States," NBER Chapters, in: Pensions in the U.S. Economy, pages 53-84 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2000. "Choice, Chance, and Wealth Dispersion at Retirement," NBER Working Papers 7521, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. 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.
  16. Benjamin M. Friedman & Mark Warshawsky, 1985. "The Cost of Annuities: Implications for Saving Behavior and Bequests," NBER Working Papers 1682, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Zvi Bodie & John B. Shoven & David A. Wise, 1988. "Pensions in the U.S. Economy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bodi88-1.
  18. B. Douglas Bernheim, 1989. "How Strong are Bequest Motives? Evidence Based on Estimates of the Demand for Life Insurance and Annuities," NBER Working Papers 2942, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Olivia S. Mitchell, . "New Trends in Pension Benefit and Retirement Provisions," Pension Research Council Working Papers 2000-1, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  20. Jeffrey R. Brown, 1999. "Private Pensions, Mortality Risk, and the Decision to Annuitize," NBER Working Papers 7191, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. 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.
  22. Friedman, Benjamin M & Warshawsky, Mark J, 1990. "The Cost of Annuities: Implications for Saving Behavior and Bequests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 135-54, February.
  23. Walliser, Jan, 2000. "Regulation of withdrawals in individual account systems," Social Protection Discussion Papers 23069, The World Bank.
  24. William G. Gale & Joel B. Slemrod, 2001. "Rethinking the Estate and Gift Tax: Overview," NBER Working Papers 8205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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