In 1981 Chile adopted its new multi-pillar system, which featured privately managed individual accounts. Starting in 1983 payouts from the accounts were permitted and detailed rules about payouts were put in place. The Chilean scheme therefore gives us an opportunity to examine how pensioners and pension providers react when individual accounts replace DB systems, and how detailed regulations shape these reactions.
Retirees in Chile have a choice between early versus normal retirement (before or after age 65M/60W) and between annuitization versus programmed withdrawals; lump sum withdrawals are largely ruled out. Almost two-thirds of all retirees have annuitized – a very high proportion compared with other countries. This paper argues that this high rate of annuitization is the result of guarantees and regulations that constrain payout choices, insure retirees through the minimum pension guarantee, eliminate other DB components, and give a competitive advantage to insurance companies selling annuities. The minimum pension financed by the government provides insurance to workers with small accumulations, who retire at the normal age with programmed withdrawals, while those with large accumulations retire early and must purchase annuities to acquire longevity and investment insurance. Insurance companies further induce annuitization by marketing aggressively, facilitating early retirement for those who annuitize and offering a high money's worth ratio for price-indexed annuities. We find evidence of adverse selection based on asymmetric information about short-run health status, but this does not seem to deter the high rate of annuitization.