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Optimal annuitization with imperfect information about insolvency risk

Hui Li, Seth Neumuller () and Casey Rothschild ()

Journal of Risk & Insurance, 2021, vol. 88, issue 1, 101-130

Abstract: Even the highest‐rated life‐annuity providers have a nonzero probability of becoming insolvent during an annuitant's retirement, and many potential annuitants are unaware of the state guaranty associations (SGAs) which provide insurance against the associated financial consequences. We study the theoretical implications of insolvency risk—real and perceived—for annuitization. Then, using a disciplined calibration of annuitant misperceptions in a standard life cycle model, we show that even the modest perceived risk of default associated with highly‐rated providers can—absent awareness of the SGAs—reduce annuitization and significantly reduce welfare. We further consider the implications of information frictions which prevent retirees from discerning true insolvency risk and we find that these frictions have plausibly large additional quantitative implications for annuitization and welfare. Simulations of our model further suggest that the general lack of awareness of the SGA backstop by potential annuitants can erode a sizable fraction of the potential welfare benefits thereof.

Date: 2021
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