Cognitive Constraints on Valuing Annuities
99 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2014
Date Written: October 1, 2014
This paper investigates consumers' difficulty in valuing life annuities. Using a survey-based experiment, we show that the prices at which people are willing to buy annuities are substantially below the prices at which they are willing to sell them. This finding is not a simple endowment effect, because it prevails even when the annuity and lump-sum option are both presented as deviations from their own endowments. We also find that buy values are negatively correlated with sell values, as those individuals who express the highest sell values tend to also express the lowest buy values. This sell-buy valuation spread is negatively correlated with cognition; that is, the spread is larger for those with less education, weaker numerical abilities, and lower levels of financial literacy. Our evidence contribute to the emerging literature on heterogeneity in financial decision-making abilities. Importantly, it implies that many people lack the cognitive skills required to manage their retirement asset decumulation decisions optimally.
Keywords: annuity, retirement income, Social Security, financial literacy, cognition
JEL Classification: D14, D91, G11, H55
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation