Do Retired Americans Annuitize Too Little? Trends in the Share of Annuitized Income

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This paper examines the importance of annuity-like income as a share of total money income received by aged families. The analysis considers the aged (62+) population as a whole as well as different parts of the aged families’ income distribution during the period from the early 1980s through 2009. We use survey data from 1983 through 2009 from the March Current Population Survey (March CPS) and the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF). The total income amounts reported in the files are compared with data in the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA). We calculate the family income consisting of annuitized income flows (primarily Social Security and pensions) and measure it as a share of families’ total money income. We also expand the definition of both annuitized and non-annuitized income to include income flows not captured in the surveys, namely, health insurance subsidies and the housing services received by homeowners. Finally, we consider the potential impact on aged families if they were to convert their wealth into private annuities.