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RAPPORT

Survival pessimism and the demand for annuities

The annuity puzzle

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 mis-perceive 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 annuities puzzle.

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