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Survival pessimism and the demand for annuities

IFS Working Paper W19/02

The “annuity puzzle” refers to the fact that annuities are rarely purchased despite the longevity insurance they provide. Most explanations for this puzzle assume that indi-viduals have accurate expectations about their future survival. We provide evidence that individuals misperceive their mortality risk, and study the demand for annuities in a setting where annuities are priced by insurers on the basis of objectively-measured survival probabilities but in which individuals make purchasing decisions based on their own subjective survival probabilities. Subjective expectations have the capacity to explain significant rates of non-annuitization, yielding a quantitatively important explanation for the annuity puzzle.

This report was updated on 6/8/2020.