Individual mortality expectations

We estimate individual survival curves using data on subjective survival probabilities. We show that, although individuals seem to have a good idea of how their potential longevity compares to that of other people of their age and sex, they do not have a good understanding of the shape of the survival curve that they face. In particular, we show that most individuals perceive that their survival curve is much ‘flatter’ than actuarial estimates suggest – that is, they appear to under-estimate the chance of surviving to younger ages but over-estimate the chance of surviving to very old age. This has potentially important implications for how individuals behave. We discuss how this result can affect certain economic decisions on financial planning for retirement.