Improving life expectancy and a rising retirement age limit are set to push the annuities market in the U.S., benefiting insurance companies such as MetLife (NYSE:MET), Manulife Financial (NYSE:MFC), Hartford Financial Services Group (NYSE:HIG) and Prudential Financial (NYSE:PRU). With doubts being raised on the solvency of the social security provision, Americans are encouraged to look for sources beyond government entitlement to secure their financial positions and avoid any chances of outliving their financial resources. The U.S. government has acknowledged that the official retirement age will rise from the current limit of 67 in the near future. Robert Benmosche, CEO of AIG (NYSE:AIG), recently said in an interview that he believes that increased life expectancy and global economic conditions could push retirement ages to as high as 80 years. 
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The present retirement age for Americans born after 1960 to claim full benefits is 67 years, and early retirement at the age of 62 leads to a 30% reduction in monthly social security benefit.  In concurrence with the rise in retirement age, life expectancy in the U.S. has also been rising, from 75.7 years  in 2004 to 78.5 years in 2010  and is expected to increase even further with advancements in medical technology. The average lifespan of an American citizen post retirement, or the length of retirement, is following a similar trend – increasing from from 8.1 years in 1950 to 20 years in 2007. 
These conditions, along with awareness among the American youth regarding their financial future, (See Hartford Financial Targets Youth To Drive Retirement Plans) have been a major contributor to the recent boom in retirement solutions market, as customers approaching the retirement age opt for security of guaranteed income provided by annuities over riskier assets such as equities. 
…Helps Annuity Sales
Annuity sales in the U.S. increased by 8% y-o-y in 2011 to $240.3 billion  and are expected to grow further in the current market conditions. The baby boomers (Americans born between 1946 and 1964) continue to have a major impact on this rise as they approach retirement age. Metlife and Prudential are the market leaders in annuity sales in the U.S.  Metlife reported a 20% y-o-y increase in earnings generated through annuity sales in the first quarter of 2012, (See MetLife’s Strong Performance Offset By Derivative Losses) and is pulling back from the variable annuity market to cut risks. (See MetLife Updates: Cutting Back On Variable Annuities While Looking For Growth Abroad). We expect annuity sales to continue to rise through our forecast period, for both Metlife and Prudential.
We have a price estimate of $54.02 on Prudential’s stock, which is 15% above the current market price. You can gauge the impact of a change in annuity sales by modifying the forecast above.Notes:
- AIG Chief Sees Retirement Age as High as 80 After Crisis, Bloomberg, June 4th, 2012 [↩]
- Retirement Age in USA, Buzzle.com [↩]
- Life Expectancy by Age, 1850–2004, infoplease [↩]
- Life Expectancy, Centres For Disease Control and Prevention [↩]
- Average Retirement Length: 20 Years [↩]
- Boomer Retirement: Headwinds for U.S. Equity Markets? [↩]
- LIMRA Reports on Annuity Sales, Life Health Pro, March 16th, 2012 [↩]
- MetLife Tops Prudential in Annuities as Insurers Added Sales Before Rout, Bloomberg, Aug 19, 2011 [↩]