Growing Risk in the Insurance Sector
Developing risk in the life insurance industry requires prudent policy response to prevent broader economic damage.
Derivatives and Collateral at U.S. Life Insurers
Although insurers represent a relatively small part of the derivatives markets, they are an interesting case study, in part because they report very detailed information about their derivatives positions and associated collateral in quarterly regulatory filings. The authors exploit these data to study how derivatives are used by insurers and analyze the likely impact of regulatory reforms on their business models.
How Much Risk Do Variable Annuity Guarantees Pose to Life Insurers?
Over the past two decades, guarantees that protect variable annuities? balances when their underlying investments perform poorly have become quite popular. Collectively, these guarantees can pose a sizable risk to life insurers. This article explores the different types of variable annuity guarantees, the extent of the risk they pose to insurers, and the practices used by insurers to mitigate against such risk.
What Explains the Decline in Life Insurance Ownership?
Life insurance ownership has declined markedly over the past 30 years, continuing a trend that began as early as 1960. In 1989, 77 percent of households owned life insurance (see figure 1). By 2013, that share had fallen to 60 percent. This article analyzes factors that might have contributed to the decline in life insurance ownership from 1989 to 2013. The focus of our analysis is on two broad sources of potential change in the demand for life insurance: changes in the socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of the population and changes in how those same characteristics are associated ...
Private Efforts for Affordable Mortgage Lending Before Fannie and Freddie
Prior to government interventions in the U.S. mortgage market during the 1930s, private institutions arose to improve the efficiency of the market and produce more affordable mortgage products. These institutions included mortgage companies that made significant use of mortgage securitization, building and loan associations, and life insurance company mortgage operations. These developments allowed for the creation of geographically more diversified mortgage portfolios while working to address the difficulties of maintaining effective oversight of local lending agents. They may be suggestive ...
Human Capital Risk, Contract Enforcement, and the Macroeconomy
We use data from the Survey of Consumer Finance and Survey of Income Program Participation to show that young households with children are under-insured against the risk that an adult member of the household dies. We develop a tractable macroeconomic model with human capital risk, age-dependent returns to human capital investment, and endogenous borrowing constraints due to the limited pledgeability of human capital (limited contract enforcement). We show analytically that, consistent with the life insurance data, in equilibrium young households are borrowing constrained and under-insured ...
Health and Mortality Delta: Assessing the Welfare Cost of Household Insurance Choice
We develop a pair of risk measures, health and mortality delta, for the universe of life and health insurance products. A life-cycle model of insurance choice simplifies to replicating the optimal health and mortality delta through a portfolio of insurance products. We estimate the model to explain the observed variation in health and mortality delta implied by the ownership of life insurance, annuities including private pensions, and long-term care insurance in the Health and Retirement Study. For the median household aged 51 to 57, the lifetime welfare cost of market incompleteness and ...
The Cost of Financial Frictions for Life Insurers
During the financial crisis, life insurers sold long-term policies at deep discounts relative to actuarial value. The average markup was as low as ?19 percent for annuities and ?57 percent for life insurance. This extraordinary pricing behavior was due to financial and product market frictions, interacting with statutory reserve regulation that allowed life insurers to record far less than a dollar of reserve per dollar of future insurance liability. We identify the shadow cost of capital through exogenous variation in required reserves across different types of policies. The shadow cost was ...
Rules and Discretion in Life Insurance Regulation
In this Chicago Fed Letter, we illustrate how regulators have used rule-based and principle-based approaches to set the minimum level of reserves and capital for insurers. We use examples to show the trend toward more principle-based regulation.
Reinvesting After the Crisis: Changes in the Fixed-Income Portfolios of Life Insurers
The years following the Great Recession presented a unique set of challenges for life insurers even as the U.S. economic recovery began to gain momentum. Between the financial crisis in 2008 and the end of 2016, life insurers? policyholder liabilities grew 25%, from $2.6 trillion to $3.2 trillion, while their preferred investment habitat, the fixed-income securities market (excluding Treasury securities), grew by only 3%, from $22.0 trillion to $22.1 trillion.