Research Resources

R. Dale Hall

In each of these “Research” columns, I’ve covered specific topics—from longevity risk and health care to severe weather. In this particular column, I want to take the opportunity to mention several different resources and materials available through the Society of Actuaries (SOA). These resources include tables, calculators, tools and other related resources. These actuarial means are made possible through the efforts of researchers, authors and volunteers, including those on project oversight groups, and employers and firms providing data. Let’s take a look at some of these resources.

The SOA’s Relative Risk Tool (RR Tool) is a free and easy-to-use resource to assist in determining the appropriate relative risk tables in conjunction with principle-based reserves (PBR). The tool provides a standard relative risk score, which actuaries can use in the process of selecting tables for underwriting classes.

Good Research Reads

Longevity Bulletin

The SOA, along with the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA), was a sponsor of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries’ (IFoA) July 2017 Longevity Bulletin, which outlines trends in life expectancy across the United Kingdom, United States and Canada. It also discusses the relationship between health spending and life expectancy, and it provides an overview of the Continuous Mortality Investigation’s updated projection model.

Pension Plan Contribution Indices

The SOA study “U.S. Public Pension Plan Contribution Indices, 2006–2014” explores contribution indices and compares pension plan contributions to benchmarks that represent the contribution level needed to pay down unfunded liabilities for contributions among 160 state and large city public sector pension plans in the United States. Using the assets and liabilities reported under Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) guidelines for financial disclosure, the study spans 2006–2014.

Resource Collections on Climate

The SOA and its Climate & Environmental Sustainability Research Committee developed a new repository of information about climate and environmental sustainability research. These climate resources will help the SOA with the development of research projects in the future.

Another SOA report essentially serves as a collection of resources on climate, weather and environmental information. It helps to understand risk management in terms of climate change and examines information from other climate data and publications of interest to actuaries.

The American Academy of Actuaries’ (the Academy’s) economic scenario generators are used in regulatory reserves and capital calculations. The Academy and the SOA joined resources to manage these generators.

Those working with pension plans are aware of the SOA’s private pension plan mortality tables, RP-2014. We also update a mortality improvement scale each fall, with the most recent one being MP-2016. The 2017 mortality improvement scale will soon follow it.

Another tool that comes to mind is the Multiemployer Plan Metrics (MPM) Calculator, which is designed to calculate selected metrics for the universe of U.S. multi-employer pension plans. We intend to update this data set periodically. This tool also ties into our past research on multiemployer plan stress metrics.

We also developed an actuarial framework for assessing defined contribution retirement plan benefits. This resource can be used to evaluate the value and effectiveness of a defined contribution arrangement. It provides a uniform system to compare one program with those of other employers in the same industry or geographic area. It also includes a rating system to examine the strengths or weaknesses of the programs being reviewed.

Focusing on retirement risks, the SOA’s Committee on Post-Retirement Needs and Risks updated several of its retirement planning briefs. The updated materials include insights on when to retire, dealing with unplanned early retirement, deciding when to claim Social Security and other related subject matter. The committee also developed consumer-focused retirement literacy material with Financial Finesse. The committee will release its next reports in the series of retirement risks research in early 2018. There are also monographs available from the SOA’s 2017 Living to 100 Symposium, and these papers focus on implications with longevity and aging.

I also encourage you to check out the wide array of published experience tables from the past two years, which include cancer claim costs, individual disability income, simplified issue and guaranteed issue mortality tables, and the recommendations from the SOA’s Committee on Life Insurance Company Expenses for the Generally Recognized Expense Table (GRET).

R. Dale Hall, FSA, CERA, MAAA, is managing director of Research at the Society of Actuaries.