Wharton Pension Research Council Working Papers

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Working Paper

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This paper derives optimal consumption, investment, and annuitization patterns for retired households that have access to German-style participating payout life annuities (PLAs), allowing for capital market risks as well as idiosyncratic and systematic longevity risks. PLAs provide guaranteed minimum benefits in combination with participation in insurers’ surpluses. Minimum benefits are calculated based on conservative assumptions regarding capital market and mortality developments, while surpluses distributed to annuitants bridge the gap between the insurers’ actual investment and mortality experiences and the projections used in pricing. Through the participation scheme, systematic longevity risk is shared between insurers and annuitants, as unanticipated longevity shocks result in benefit adjustments via the surplus mechanism. We show that the retiree draws substantial utility from access to PLAs, equivalent to 20% of initial wealth in the presence of systematic longevity risk. We also find that stochasticity in mortality rates only has minor impact on the appeal of PLAs to the retiree. Even if the interest rate guarantee is reduced to zero in adverse capital market environments, PLAs prove to provide substantial utility for retirees. Overall, the participating life annuity design produces substantial welfare gains over a no-annuity world, while being an efficient setup that helps providers to hedge long-term risks that are difficult to hedge otherwise, such as systematic longevity risks.


Life-cycle investing, annuitization, stochastic mortality, pension, household finance

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All opinions, errors, findings, interpretations, and conclusions of this paper represent the views of the author and not those of the Wharton School or the Pension Research Council. © 2014 Pension Research Council of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved.

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Date Posted: 26 June 2019