1 Annual Report 2008
2 Annual Report 2008
4 Contents Preface 7 State of Affairs 11 Internationalization and Research 16 Education 22 Sharing Knowledge 28 Appendices 33 Colophon 64
6 The Promise She wants to become a doctor. She wants to travel the world and do good works in distant places. She wants to fall in love. She wants a beautiful house. She wants to have children. But not right now. Right now she s doing well in her first summer job. And while she serves the customers and cleans the shop, she has ample time to think about her future. Her great expectations don t even seem exaggerated or profane. Her license to dream is one of the blessings of youth. If she s lucky, she might even get it all.
8 Preface This annual report for the period April 2008 until March 2009 surveys the many activities that Netspar now four years old has developed during this year. The global financial crisis has created a long list of new questions and issues that must be addressed both in academic research and in the current policy debate. Netspar interacts with its partners to find answers to all of these new challenges by shifting the frontier of knowledge, by providing education and, last but not least, through various forms of knowledge exchange with the pension and insurance industry. More events have been organized that focus on the interaction with professionals in the sector. Moreover, the number of papers written by Netspar researchers that directly address current policy issues has increased significantly, and working group meetings have successfully been introduced that assure a degree of confidentiality when discussing sensitive issues. 7 In 2008, Netspar and Holland Financial Centre (HFC) jointly developed the innovation program Retirement Management, which outlines the many excellent opportunities to benefit from innovation and further improvements in the interaction between knowledge centers and the pension and insurance industry. Needless to say, Netspar s Advisory Board strongly supports this initiative and hopes that it can be implemented in the very near future. I gladly accepted the invitation to chair Netspar s Advisory Board as of September 1, Netspar is an inspiring initiative that has a lot to offer to all its partners, both in academia and in the private and public sector! Jan Willem Oosterwijk Erasmus University Rotterdam Chairman of Netspar s Advisory Board
9 The Congregation Sister She has entered the convent of career and wears her habit with pride. Five years ago she devoted her life to her work. She is already in her third job now. At two o clock she attends a meeting in The City of London. During her flight back she writes a well thought-out report for her bosses. At nine o clock she eats a simple supper in front of the television. Exhausted, she climbs into her single bed. Just before she falls asleep a sudden thought startles her: a profound desire for a baby.
11 Based on the evaluations of Netspar s Scientific Council and the recommendations of its council of private partners, new research themes have been selected for the period These new research themes in part help Netspar to take up the challenge of the evaluation committee to enrich its research program with insights from other disciplines, such as psychology. 10 Supporting Consumer Pension Decision-Making Online Theme coordinator: Benedict Dellaert (EUR) In recent years, the range of available pension- and related income-provision products has expanded significantly. This trend is likely to continue in the future. Consumers are potentially better off, given the rich product menu but are they really willing and capable to act on this potential welfare gain? How can individuals be classified in terms of their willingness to consider pension decisions? How can they best be assisted in formulating their future needs when retiring? This theme s focus is on the role of online systems and interactive decision aids in answering these questions. Netspar Research New Themes for The Economics and Psychology of Lifecycle Decision-Making Theme coordinators: Peter Kooreman and Jan Potters (both UvT) Lifecycle decisions especially with regard to pensions and insurance are increasingly left to individuals. This second Netspar theme aims to expand our empirical knowledge about lifecycle decision-making. In order to make better models, predictions and recommendations, we need a better understanding of people s preferences, probability and risk perceptions, and decision strategies. This theme s researchers use experiments from both economics and the social sciences to improve our knowledge of lifecycle decision-making. The Influence of Market Imperfections on Recovery Strategies for Pension Funds Theme coordinator: Laura Spierdijk (RUG) The academic literature largely ignores market imperfections in large institutional trades. The recent financial crisis has made it crystal clear how important liquidity issues and the absence of trading opportunities can be. Likewise, the crisis has demonstrated how shocks may easily spread out from one market to another and from the local to the global level. The research question in this third theme is concerned with what asset and liability strategies are optimal for pension funds, in the presence of market imperfections and systemic risks.
12 State of Affairs Netspar s Research Opportunities The year 2008 was the year of the credit crisis. Pension systems were also seriously hit by the turmoil in the financial markets. Buffers of pension funds and insurance companies have been eroded by steep falls in stock prices as well as by declining long-term interest rates. The most important task for pension funds and insurance companies is to simply survive. The next challenge will be to prepare for the long-term consequences of the credit crisis. Many issues need to be studied: the implications for risk management, for example, and which funded systems worldwide have best weathered the current perfect storm. We need to find out which changes in pension contracts are needed, now that buffers have eroded, and to explore how the financial-market shocks have affected retirement behavior and the labor market for older workers. We must also find out the consequences for the behavior of investors and savers, as well as the implications of how their behavior affects financial markets, in general, and the rewards for risk-taking, in particular. Can institutional investors act as a stabilizing factor in turbulent financial markets, and how can they get involved in the reform of financial systems? We need to answer one question in particular: can institutional investors remain reliable long-term shareholders who provide risktaking capital to financial institutions, given the fact that many governments are eager to sell their substantial stakes in their newly acquired banks and insurance companies? 11 The Dutch soccer legend Johan Cruyff believed in the saying that every dark cloud has a silver lining. This also applies to the current difficult times experienced by pension systems. Such a crisis reveals flaws in policies and pension practices that need correcting. The turmoil also provides a rich source of new data, which can clarify how financial markets operate and how this process can be improved. The key challenge is to learn from the dramatic events of 2008, so that the pension and insurance sector emerges better prepared for the challenges of our risky world.
13 12 State of Affairs Netspar is ready to help in this crucial learning process. An evaluation committee comprised of representatives of Netspar s partners and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) as well as Netspar s Scientific Council evaluated Netspar in The outcome was positive, and came with two main recommendations. The first is to broaden Netspar s research activities from the Netherlands to Europe and beyond, while exchanging pension knowledge across borders. The second major recommendation is to intensify contacts with Netspar s private partners. Netspar has put a lot of effort into meeting these challenges, as described in the chapters Internationalization and Research and Sharing Knowledge. Governance Frank van der Duyn Schouten, former Rector Magnificus of Tilburg University, has been appointed in the new position of general director of Netspar. As of April 1, 2009, he will govern the institute, together with scientific director Theo Nijman. Van der Duyn Schouten will focus on governing and management tasks, as well as external affairs. As such, he will enable the scientific directors Theo Nijman and Lans Bovenberg, in particular, to increase their contribution to the substance of Netspar and to the widening of its scientific base. Netspar s Advisory Board has appointed Jan Willem Oosterwijk as its chairman (as of September 1). Oosterwijk took over from Joep Schouten, the former chairman of pensions provider Cordares, who retired in The new chairman of the Advisory Board is also chairman of the executive board of the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. He was a member of the Commissie Bakker, which advised the Dutch government on labor market participation. Erik van Houwelingen of Aegon was chairman in the transition period in the first half of The development of Netspar over the period will be monitored on behalf of the government sponsors by a committee installed at NWO. A committee of six members has been appointed for this task.
14 Living Longer in Good Health: Prospects, Strategies and Consequences 13 Scope Whereas the rise in life expectancy is one of the great successes of public health, it also poses significant challenges by threatening the sustainability of the pension system and inducing increased demand for social services, including healthcare. This Netspar theme aims to contribute to health policy strategies that will ultimately alleviate the consequences of aging for society, and to bring together a range of disciplines, such as public health, epidemiology, demography, healthcare policy and management, economics and econometrics. The theme uses the unique results of epidemiological studies, linked registration data of Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and mathematical modeling of population health in order to link various components of the entire survey. Main Research Findings The occurrence of disability is associated more with the proximity to death rather than with age, suggesting that rising life expectancy will be accompanied by an age increase at the onset of disability. Obesity is likely to cause an individual to spend a larger part of life in disability, while smoking reduces life expectancy. Disability is the main factor for long-term care for the elderly, while age and health status have no discernable impact on use of these services. Thus, aging in and of itself does not lead to increased expenditures for long-term health care. However, forecasting these expenditures depends heavily on whether there will be a compression of disability. Single elderly persons are more likely to use long-term care services. Following the individualization of society, this is a cause of concern. Longevity risk depends strongly on the design of the pension arrangements. Pensioners with a combination of old-age pension rights as well as partner pension rights have a lower longevity risk than retirees with only an old-age pension. This applies even if the insured has the option to exchange partner pension rights for old-age rights at retirement date. In order to better estimate the cost-effectiveness of prevention, future research should include indirect medical costs for extra life years in the new standard for economic evaluations of healthcare interventions. Theme Mackenbach
16 The Acrobat Life has been generous to her: she gathered all the plates she can keep up in the air. Sometimes her juggle is a struggle; combining a job with a buzzing family life can be exhausting. Yet she feels rewarded. She shares household tasks with her partner although usually she shares just a little bit more than he does. She doesn t mind. Her part-time job seems to be a welcome distraction from the household that she runs. Her occasionally tired look can suddenly turn into a smile when she says: These are the best years of my life.
17 16 Internationalization and Research National and International Research Fellows Following the internationalization of the research activities, more than 120 researchers at universities and academic institutions in the Netherlands and abroad are now fellows of Netspar s research network. They write research papers and participate in Netspar s events and its education program. Fellows can apply for research funding for new and original work. Several of the research fellows from non-dutch institutions have begun contributing to the Netspar discussion papers in 2008, and have also participated in the bi-annual workshops. Workshops were organized in The Hague (June 2008, in cooperation with Statistics Netherlands (CBS)) and in Amsterdam (January 2009). The second workshop in 2009 will be held abroad (Stockholm). Netspar aims at exporting and importing knowledge on aging and pensions through EU research funding. It participated with other European research institutes in defining the European research agenda on pensions, aging and health. Workshops in Turin, Lausanne and Dublin prepared for the final conference in The Hague in This meeting, in combination with the associated papers, must help European funding agencies in prioritizing research subsidies. Netspar research fellows also participated in several conferences organized by non-dutch institutes abroad. Following a successful event in Italy (about Italian and Dutch pension problems) in 2007 co-organized by pensions provider Cordares and the Dutch embassy Netspar co-sponsored a conference on life cycle saving and investment at Boston University. Reeling from the financial crisis and confronted by many individuals facing inadequate pension coverage, policymakers in the US are looking at the Dutch pension system for inspiration. Low-cost and employer-provided pension plans for saving, investment and annuitization have attracted
18 increased interest in the US. These ideas may fit well within the priorities of the new Obama administration. The Importance of Data: SHARE and COMPARE Netspar continued its participation in the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), aimed at collecting internationally comparable data. It also supported the \acquisition of specific data including register data on pension entitlements and access facilities. SHARE is a multi-disciplinary and cross-national panel database on health, socioeconomic status and social and family networks of more than 30,000 individuals aged 50 or over. Since 2004, fourteen European countries have contributed data to the project. Netspar researcher Arthur van Soest was Dutch country team leader until October 2008, when he was succeeded by future Netspar director Frank van der Duyn Schouten. Affiliated with SHARE is the EU-funded project COMPARE, which is coordinated by Van Soest. COMPARE focuses on improving the comparability of subjective measures of economic and non-economic dimensions of well being across countries. Interesting results thus far include the findings that Dutch and Swedish citizens are the happiest among the countries considered, and that the healthcare systems across Europe show huge differences, with Poland and Italy scoring particularly poorly. At present, SHARE s third wave of data collection is focusing at detailed retrospective life histories in fifteen countries, including the Netherlands. Register Data on Health and Socioeconomic Status Netspar continues its cooperation with CBS on remote access to existing register data. Several researchers are already extensively using such facilities at the universities of Rotterdam, Tilburg, and Utrecht, as well as at the Free University (VU A) in Amsterdam. For example, researchers have been looking into the relation between household finances and mortality risk, while others are combining register data to analyze the relation between healthcare utilization and socioeconomic status. Data from several sources are being used to study disability, mortality and life expectancy among the elderly. Experimental Data and Data on Stated Preferences Netspar is subsidizing several projects on data collection by the Dutch CentER panel and its US counterpart, the RAND American Life Panel. Survey data on preventative healthcare in both countries have been collected, while a project is now underway that measures risk and time preferences in the Netherlands for the optimal design of third-pillar pension products. In addition, data in both countries on households considerations for long-term saving decisions have been collected, as well as data on preferences for gradual retirement, focusing on which scenarios for gradual retirement are attractive to workers. Data on the Dutch public s expectations regarding future old-age benefits and pensions are being collected on a monthly basis. Research Highlights In 2008, one of Netspar s PhD students was extremely successful. The thesis of Ralph Koijen qualified for the Tilburg University s prize for best dissertation of His work, Essays on Asset Pricing, also scored well on a national level. The Royal Netherlands Economic Association (KVS) voted Koijen s thesis as the best. After completing his PhD thesis in Tilburg at CentER and Netspar, Koijen obtained offers from virtually all of the top schools in the US, and finally accepted a position as assistant professor at the University of Chicago. 17
19 Valuation and Risk Management for Insurance Companies and Pension Funds Scope This theme focuses on the common ground between financial risks and classic actuarial risks. The main applications are risk management and asset-liability management by pension funds and insurance companies. The emphasis is on internal risk management, external supervision and regulation. Main Research Findings The researchers found that higher returns of larger and more experienced private equity funds are caused mainly by higher risk exposures, rather than abnormal performance. Venture capital funds showed a high market beta, while beta for buy-out firms appeared to be low. The political tensions between generations that are caused by ambiguity regarding the ownership of a pension fund s assets can be solved through the introduction of generational accounts. Theories of consumption and portfolio choice show that the younger generations should be most exposed to equity due to their (relatively) risk-less human capital. A framework has been developed for optimal investment decisions for insurance companies with risks that cannot be hedged. Use of stochastic control theory made it possible to derive the optimal policy for investment and dividends. Theme Pelsser A study of option-pricing anomalies revealed that jump risk and volatility risk are the main drivers behind the phenomenon of guarantees being substantially more expensive than most standard models suggest. Jump risk and volatility risk appear to be priced risk factors in the option markets. A pricing framework for life insurance liabilities using utility indifference has been developed. The resulting pricing rule is linked to the best estimate, plus a market value margin rule-ofthumb. Another project has analyzed how to choose regulatory intervention levels, in order to control the probability of a shortfall at an insurance company. It also looked into the interaction between the regulatory rule and the company s risk management. Analytical approximations have been derived for embedded options, such as profit-sharing features in combination with guarantees, for life insurance products. In practice, these options are usually valued through time-consuming Monte Carlo simulations.
20 Macroeconomic Aspects of the Three-Pillar System Scope The research theme focuses on macroeconomic aspects of the Dutch state pension AOW (first pillar), the supplementary mandatory and collective pensions (second pillar) and the additional voluntary private savings (third pillar). Specifically, what weight should be given to each of the pillars, what should be the optimal pension contract in each pillar and what should the government s role be in shaping the system? Main Research Findings Research on the gains from optimal risk-sharing between generations has shown that the optimal pension scheme may add up to 19% of lifetime consumption on account of intergenerational risk-sharing. It may be possible to set up a pension plan that combines intergenerational risk-sharing with zero-discontinuity risk (of young generations opting out) if there is enough difference between returns on pension savings and on private savings. The optimal pension scheme the one that would be chosen by a hypothetical social planner cannot be reproduced nationally in case of an imbalance of labor supply. Welfare gains from risk-sharing are more important than welfare losses following labor market distortions. In addition, pension funds may also have a welfare-increasing impact, because they act as a commitment device for workers. In most pension funds, early retirement provision acts as a trap, because it induces most workers to retire well before the official retirement age. In order to have an effect on retirement behavior, pension reform must be drastic as simulations have made clear. A study on the international dimensions of pension reform has shown that benefits and costs that ensue as a result of a change from a pay-as-you-go set-up to a more capitalfunded pension system are usually shared by neighboring countries. Theme Van Ewijk
21 The Dream Catcher He built his first boat together with his father. The bug got him. After he had finished his study, he did a serious attempt to work as the ICT-specialist that his curriculum supposed him to be. But the bug kept itching. Two years ago he threw caution to the wind and followed his dream: building sailing boats. It s a fulltime job now. Every dime he makes goes back into the business and so far, he hasn t even had time to think about his pension. He is sure about one thing, though: he will build his last boat together with his son.
23 22 Education Netspar has initiated the Master of Science in Economics and Finance of Aging (MSc EFA) at Tilburg University (UvT). This program focuses on training talented students who just have finished their bachelor degree, in order to become the new human capital of the sector. The MSc EFA started in September In 2007 (2008), eleven (twelve) students started this MSc program. Netspar has intensified its marketing efforts to persuade more students to study this highly rated master. Students in the MSc EFA are in general very satisfied with the program, which they regard as interesting and challenging. They value in particular the close link between the program, Netspar and the sector. It enables them to participate in many activities, such as the Netspar Workshop, guest lectures and company visits. Courses on pensions and aging have also been added to other MSc programs. For example, Netspar sponsored three courses in the MSc Quantitative Finance and Actuarial Science at the UvT. These courses are meant to introduce students to the challenges in pensions and insurance, and to raise their interest in a career in the sector. The internships at Netspar partner institutions are also a greatly appreciated part of Netspar s educational activities. Students from both the MSc EFA and other programs base their MSc thesis on an internship with a partner institution, while a Netspar researcher and a professional from the partner are supervising these projects. These internships result in theses linking theory to practice, whereby students are able to gain valuable work experience. On the other hand, partner institutions can meet young talent. Assisted by the partner institutions, Netspar was able to offer many internship projects to students in the MSc EFA and in other relevant master programs. This resulted in sixteen thesis projects. Most of the MSc EFA graduates easily found a job often at the company where they had conducted their internship. A new element was the Junior Pension Day, held in June, which gave the students the opportunity to present their problem statements, research plans and preliminary results to an audience of Netspar
24 researchers, company supervisors and fellow students. The initiative generated a great deal of useful discussion and feedback for further improvement of the students theses. The Netspar - UMBS Academy offers high - level postgraduate courses for professionals, managers and policymakers of pension funds, banks, insurance companies, the public sector and supervisory boards. Due to the level of the courses and their international and interactive nature, the Netspar- UMBS Academy is probably unique in the world. Each course addresses a specific theme about pensions and insurance. Professional organizations, like the Royal Dutch Institute of Register Accountants (NIVRA), the Actuarial Institute and the Association of Financial Professionals (VBA) grant Continuing Professional Education credits to participants in the modules of the Academy. The Netspar-UMBS Academy held two three-day modules between April 2008 and March As part of the first module on responsible investing experts from Maastricht University/ECCE and the Elfenwork Center for the Study of Fiduciary Capitalism in California discussed several cases, and looked into the effect of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors on the returns and risks of investment portfolios. The second module addressed aging and pensions in Europe, and was organized in collaboration with the Netspar research theme The Macroeconomics of Pension Reform. The module, which was coordinated by CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, included presentations by representatives of CPB, the European Commission and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research in the United Kingdom. The participants evaluated the modules with a grade of 8 out of 10, on average. Nevertheless, we would like to see an increase of the number of participants, particularly from non-partner institutions. Representatives of the sector have indicated that it might be better to limit the modules to twoday events, to be held in central locations in the Netherlands. Netspar Thesis Awards In 2008, Netspar again presented 3,000 awards for the best BSc, MSc and MPhil thesis on topics related to Netspar s research program, in order to encourage a wider interest among students in pensions and aging-related subjects. The Netspar Editorial Board selected the prizewinners from all participating universities. The prize for best BSc thesis was awarded to Sjoerd Timmermans of UvT for his thesis on Intergenerational risk-sharing. The best MSc thesis The added value of age differentiation in pension deals was written by Bart Custers of UvT. Marloes Lammers, of Amsterdam s Free University (VU A), was awarded for the best MPhil thesis: The effects of savings on reservation wages and search effort. 23
25 The Traffic Police Woman This is the rush hour of the generations. She was already looking forward to an easier life, now that her children were growing older. But adolescents seem to need even more attention than small children as she found out. And to be honest, she d never expected her mom and dad to become more or less dependent on her. Sometimes, she feels squeezed in between her parents, her offspring and a million things to take care of. Amazingly, she has managed to arrange a week s holiday with her husband just the two of them.
27 Microeconomic Aspects of Pensions and Social Security Benefits Scope Occupational pensions, third-pillar products and social security benefits are aimed at guaranteeing sufficient income and financial security for the elderly. This theme focuses on how the financial security provided by governments, pension funds and insurance companies serves the population. Main Research Findings Implicit taxes on working longer and generous schemes for pensions and/or early retirement stimulate workers to take early retirement. At present, gradual retirement in western countries is rather low, because of institutional restrictions, macroeconomic circumstances and exit routes, such as early retirement. A study on financial literacy found that households grasp of basic economic concepts (such as inflation, interest rates and interest rate compounding) is modest although it does exceed their knowledge about stocks, bonds and financial markets. Research on trends in income and wealth has shown that the well being of the female partner benefits elderly couples. However, a woman s well being is proportionally more affected by her partner s death, than the other way around. The mortality risk of individuals on the lowest 10% of the income scale seems to be twice as high as the risk to earners in the top 10% of the income distribution. Wealthy people tend to be more pessimistic about the prospects of future old-age social security staying at the present level, while less wealthy individuals actually expect a rise of the age at which they are entitled to benefit at the current level. Theme Alessi & Van Soest
28 Income, Health and Work across the Life Cycle Scope This theme addresses the sustainability of current retirement and disability programs, as well as the affordability of healthcare systems. It looks into the links between income and health across the life cycle, focusing in particular on the moment at which individuals move from working age into retirement. Main Research Findings The project on health effects on labor force participation established that financial incentives are far more important than health issues. A study of the role of subjective survival probabilities for retirement did not confirm the standard assumption that a higher life expectancy reduces the retirement probability. Extension of the working life doesn t seem to have an impact on health later in life, as we found no short-term retirement effects on post-retirement health. Our researchers found that health increases with income growth, and that the health increase is proportionally larger for high earners. No evidence has yet been found for links between income growth and health. This suggests that most causal links come from background- and early life factors. Individuals in good health who have attained higher education and have a better income are more likely to insure themselves, a study in Ireland indicated. Informal care by children or a spouse is a substitute for formal home care, and is omplementary to visits to GPs and hospitals. This suggests that informal care providers may function as agents in the formal healthcare system. Lower socioeconomic classes suffer disproportionally from economic shocks, leading to a proportionally higher mortality. The loss of a spouse shortens life expectancy of the surviving partner by 12%, on average. This affects the share of healthy years in the residual lifetime, mainly because healthy years are replaced by a period characterized by chronic diseases. A model for health and work, as well as health-reporting behavior, shows that justification bias (the jobless, for example, are inclined to overstate health problems to justify inactivity or dependence on social security) is substantial. Failing to account for this may considerably change the estimation results of retirement models. Theme Lindeboom & Van Doorslaer