Cognitive Constraints on Valuing Annuities

Jeffrey R. Brown, Arie Kapteyn, Erzo F.P. Luttmer, and Olivia S. Mitchell

Abstract — This paper documents consumers’ difficulty valuing life annuities. 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, a finding we show is not attributable to an endowment effect. We also find that buy values are negatively correlated with sell values and that the sell-buy valuation spread is negatively correlated with cognition; the spread is larger for those with less education, weaker numerical abilities, and lower levels of financial literacy. Our evidence contributes to the emerging literature on heterogeneity in financial decision-making abilities.