Wharton Pension Research Council Working Papers

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



Many people have only a vague notion of the concept of life expectancy and the longevity risk they face at older ages, which in turn implies that they are likely to undersave for retirement. This paper employs an online experiment to investigate alternative ways to describe both life expectancy and longevity risk, with the goal of assessing whether these can raise peoples’ awareness of possible retirement shortfalls. We also evaluate whether providing this information promotes interest in saving activity and demand for longevity insurance products. We find that providing longevity risk information impacts respondents’ subjective survival probabilities, while simply describing average life expectancy does not. Yet providing life expectancy or longevity information significantly affects financial decisions, mostly regarding annuitization. Interestingly, we also find that merely prompting people to think about financial decisions changes their perceptions regarding subjective survival probabilities.


retirement, annuity, longevity, life expectancy, behavioral economics

JEL Code

G5, G4, J26

Working Paper Number


Copyright/Permission Statement

All findings and conclusions expressed are those of the authors and not the official views of the TIAA Institute or any of the other institutions with which the authors are affiliated. This research is part of the NBER Aging program and the Household Portfolio workshop. ©2020 Hurwitz, Mitchell, and Sade. All rights reserved.


The authors acknowledge research support for this work from the TIAA Institute and the Pension Research Council/Boettner Center at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Included in

Economics Commons



Date Posted: 09 March 2021