Portfolio Choice With Puts: Evidence from Variable Annuities
32 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2007
Date Written: November 23, 2007
In this paper we investigate the actual portfolio choice and asset allocation behavior of individuals who acquire insurance in the form of an out - of - the - money long dated put option on their investment funds. We compare their allocations against those who do not elect and pay for this type of protection; dubbed a longevity put. Using a unique database of nearly a million variable annuity (VA) policyholders collected by seven different insurance companies, we find that these investors take on 5% to 30% additional risky/equity exposure when the longevity put option is selected. And, when this longevity put option is not purchased - so the investment portfolio resembles a conventional mutual fund - we confirm the classical life-cycle age phased reduction in equity.
We offer a rudimentary model of utility - maximizing behavior in the presence of this longevity put that indeed justifies the increased allocation to risk, provided the investor is willing, able and understands to exercise the annuity option if - and - when it matures in the money. This, of course, is debatable given the long standing body of evidence - first documented by Modigliani(1986) - that individuals intensely dislike annuitization despite its welfare enhancing properties.
Regardless, we believe our paper is the first to examine actual asset allocations within variable annuity policies, which is currently a $1.5 trillion dollar market in the U.S. and is expected to grow as aging baby boomers take control of their own retirement assets.
Keywords: Retirement, Pensions, Lifecycle Investing, Longevity Risk
JEL Classification: D91, G11
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation