The History of Annuities in the United States
52 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2000 Last revised: 17 Dec 2002
Date Written: April 1997
This paper summarizes the development of private annuity markets in the United States. Annuities constituted a small share of the U.S. insurance market until the 1930s, when two developments contributed to their growth. First, concerns about the stability of the financial system drove investors to products offered by insurance companies, which were perceived to be stable institutions. Flexible payment deferred annuities, which permit investors to save and accumulate assets as well as draw down principal, grew rapidly in this period. Second, the group annuity market for corporate pension plans began to develop in the 1930s. The group annuity market grew more rapidly than the individual annuity market for several decades after World War II. The most recent development in the annuity marketplace has been the rapid expansion of variable annuities. These annuity products combine the investment features of mutual funds with the tax deferral available for life insurance products. Variable annuity premium payments increased by a factor of five in the most recent five years for which data are available.
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