April 12, 2018
Arcane but Shrewd Retirement Solution?
Tontines might be a nifty idea for retirement income. Too bad they haven’t been legal here for a century.
Tontine is a fancy word for betting on how long you’ll live – in a good way. Here’s the concept in a nutshell: many people pool their money in return for guaranteed regular payouts for life, similar to an annuity.
The people who live to, say 90, will receive ever-increasing financial payoffs, because the number of participants in the pool will invariably shrink over time. The catch is that the investors who die young won’t receive as much income as the men and women who live the longest – but they won’t need the money either.
A new study by the Center for Retirement Research (CRR) takes a close look at an idea that is tossed around among finance experts: modifying tontines to use them as a source of retirement income.
Some criticize them as a dubious investment, but they’ve stood the test of time. King Louis XIV of France was the first monarch to raise public funds using tontines, a 1650s creation of Italian financier Lorenzo Tonti. More than a century later, they caused financial hardship among middle-class investors, laying some of the groundwork for the French Revolution.
Tontines made it into American popular culture in the M*A*S*H* television show. Because Col. Potter was the last man standing among his World War I Army buddies, he got the only remaining bottle of brandy from a cache they’d found and drank while camped out in a French chateau. Tontines popped up again in an episode of The Simpsons: grandpa Abe Simpson and Mr. Burns fight over some valuable German paintings in a tontine their Army unit had created back in World War II.
Credit for the idea of a retirement tontine goes to a paper by two professors at York University in Toronto, Moshe A. Milevsky and Thomas S. Salisbury. In his new report, CRR researcher Gal Wettstein agrees that tontines might be a useful way to get regular retirement income – with modifications. …Learn More