Longevity risk and an abhorrence of annuities


“Certainly not; but if you observe, people always live for ever when there is an annuity to be paid them; and she is very stout and healthy, and hardly forty. An annuity is a very serious business; it comes over and over every year, and there is no getting rid of it. […] I have known a great deal of the trouble of annuities; for my mother was clogged with the payment of three to old superannuated servants by my father’s will, and it is amazing how disagreeable she found it. […] My mother was quite sick of it. Her income was not her own, she said, with such perpetual claims on it; and it was the more unkind in my father, because, otherwise, the money would have been entirely at my mother’s disposal, without any restriction whatever. It has given me such an abhorrence of annuities, that I am sure I would not pin myself down to the payment of one for all the world.”

From Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen (1775-1817)

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One thought on “Longevity risk and an abhorrence of annuities

  1. That seems to be very much a provider perspective, David! I bet the superannuated servants had a different view.

    Of course the modern issue is one of price, terms and conditions, capital requirements on providers, who carries what risk, etc etc.

    I am co-authoring a paper for the FSF on financial advice for retirees and pre-retirees and one of the things the research touches on is current attitudes of advisers and pre-retirees towards annuities. Generally the views are not very favourable. The concerns are price and access to capital. The current low interest rate environment doesn’t help. I don’t kno whether the current push towards CIPRs/My Super will come up with something more attractive.

    Personally I think that the biggest issue is getting spending right and the second biggest issue is asset allocation and investment returns. Longevity is of course a risk but I think it only becomes the dominant risk when retirees are a bit older. I would say that annuities would be worth very serious consideration by older Australians (say aged 80) but you also have to think about whether and how you would finance aged care.

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