Life and disability insurance, as well as annuities, traditionally have been analyzed as products providing protection against random losses. This article proposed that these products can be viewed as derivative instruments created to address the uncertainties and inadequacies of an individual’s human capital, if human capital is viewed as a financial instrument. In short, life insurance (including disability insurance and annuities) is the business of human capital securitization.
Author(s): Krzysztof M. Ostaszewski, PhD, MAAA, FSA, CFA
Here’s some good news: using the costs of actual annuities available for consumers to purchase in June 2020, and comparing them to bond rates which were similar to the investment portfolios those insurance companies hold, the authors calculated “money’s worth ratios” that show that, for annuities purchased immediately at retirement, the value of the annuities was between 92% – 94% (give-or-take, depending on type) of its cost. That means that the value of the insurance protection is a comparatively modest 6 – 8% of the total investment.
But there’s a catch — or, rather, two of them.
In the first place, the authors calculate their ratios based on a standard mortality table for annuity purchasers — which makes sense if the goal is to judge the “fairness” of an annuity for the healthy retirees most likely to purchase one. But this doesn’t tell us whether an annuity is a smart purchase for someone who thinks of themselves as being in comparatively poorer health, or with a spottier family health history, and folks in these categories would benefit considerably from analysis that’s targeted at them, that evaluates, realistically, whether annuities are the right call and whether their prediction of their life expectancy is likely to be right or wrong.
Pandemic-related factors dampened VA policyholder behavior in 2020. Extreme market activity in the first half of the year, disruption to policyholders’ usual communication patterns with advisors and agents by COVID-related social distancing, and the suspension of required minimum distributions under the CARES Act all served to depress surrender and income commencement behavior; however, the effects were not uniform, instead manifesting in specific market sectors as described below.
In the first half of 2020, declines in account values made guarantees relatively more valuable, leading to greater persistency.
As annuity sales volumes fell in 2020, VA surrender rates fell as well. However, the declines in surrender rates were concentrated among ultimate contract durations, where rates fell 1-2 percentage points independent of rider type or benefit value. Evidence suggests producers focused their attention on contracts at the shock duration (immediately following the expiration of surrender charges), leading to less turnover among the longest-dated contracts. The decline in surrenders is suggestive of a new, unique surrender regime, distinct from the regimes we observe before and after the 2008 financial crisis.
A National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ task force today created a subgroup to focus solely on the index-linked annuity products.
“These products are exclusively filed in the states as variable annuities and are funded through non-unitized separate accounts,” read a notice to the task force from Pete Weber, chief life actuary at the Ohio Department of Insurance. “The task force has discussed developing a draft standard for minimum interim values for these products and providing direction for implementing the standard.”
Regulators gave the Index-Linked Variable Annuity Subgroup a 2021 charge to: Provide recommendations and changes, as appropriate, to nonforfeiture, or interim value requirements related to Index-Linked Variable Annuities.