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Annuity in United Kingdom

Definition of Annuity

In accordance with the work A Dictionary of Law, this is a description of Annuity :

A sum of money payable annually for as long as the beneficiary (annuitant) lives, or for some other specified period (e.g. the life of another person (pur autre vie) or the minority of the annuitant). An annuity left by will is treated as a pecuniary legacy. An annuity may be charged on, or directed to be paid out of, a particular fund or it may be unsecured. A joint annuity, in which money is payable to more than one annuitant, terminates on the death of the last survivor.

See also rentcharge.

Profits as a key determinant of the partnership

The receipt of an annuity by the widow or child of a deceased partner as a portion of profits

Find under this subsection information about The receipt of an annuity by the widow or child of a deceased partner as a portion of profits in relation to Profits as a key determinant of the partnership.

Commutation tables

Commutation tables, aptly so named in 1840 by Augustus De Morgan (see his paper “On the Calculation of Single Life Contingencies,” Assurance Magazine, xii. 328), show the proportion in which a benefit due at one age ought to be changed, so as to retain the same value and be due at another age. The earliest known specimen of a commutation table is contained in William Dale’s Introduction to the Study of the Doctrine of Annuities, published in 1772.

A full account of this work is given by F. Hendriks in the second number of the Assurance Magazine, pp. 15-17. William Morgan’s Treatise on Assurances, 1779, also contains a commutation table. Morgan gives the table as furnishing a convenient means of checking the correctness of the values of annuities found by the ordinary process. It may be assumed that he was aware that the table might be used for the direct calculation of annuities; but he appears to have been ignorant of its other uses.

The first author who fully developed the powers of the table was John Nicholas Tetens, a native of Schleswig, who in 1785, while professor of philosophy and mathematics at Kiel, published in the German language an Introduction to the Calculation of Life Annuities and Assurances. This work appears to have been quite unknown in England until F. Hendriks gave, in the first number of the Assurance Magazine, pp. 1-20 (Sept. 1850), an account of it, with a translation of the passages describing the construction and use of the commutation table, and a sketch 78 of the author’s life and writings, to which we refer the reader who desires fuller information. It may be mentioned here that Tetens also gave only a specimen table, apparently not imagining that persons using his work would find it extremely useful to have a series of commutation tables, calculated and printed ready for use.

The use of the commutation table was independently developed in England-apparently between the years 1788 and 1811— by George Barrett, of Petworth, Sussex, who was the son of a yeoman farmer, and was himself a village schoolmaster, and afterwards farm steward or bailiff. It has been usual to consider Barrett as the originator in England of the method of calculating the values of annuities by means of a commutation table, and this method is accordingly sometimes called Barrett’s method. (It is also called the commutation method and the columnar method.) Barrett’s method of calculating annuities was explained by him to Francis Baily in the year 1811, and was first made known to the world in a paper written by the latter and read before the Royal Society in 1812.

By what has been universally considered an unfortunate error of judgment, this paper was not recommended by the council of the Royal Society to be printed, but it was given by Baily as an appendix to the second issue (in 1813) of his work on life annuities and assurances. Barrett had calculated extensive tables, and with Baily’s aid attempted to get them published by subscription, but without success; and the only printed tables calculated according to his manner, besides the specimen tables given by Baily, are the tables contained in Babbage’s Comparative View of the various Institutions for the Assurance of Lives, 1826.

In the year 1825 Griffith Davies published his Tables of Life Contingencies, a work which contains, among others, two tables, which are confessedly derived from Baily’s explanation of Barrett’s tables.

Those who desire to pursue the subject further can refer to the appendix to Baily’s Life Annuities and Assurances, De Morgan’s paper “On the Calculation of Single Life Contingencies,” Assurance Magazine, xii. 348-349; Gray’s Tables and Formulae chap. viii.; the preface to Davies’s Treatise on Annuities; also Hendriks’s papers in the Assurance Magazine, No. 1, p. 1, and No. 2, p. 12; and in particular De Morgan’s “Account of a Correspondence between Mr George Barrett and Mr Francis Baily,” in the Assurance Magazine, vol. iv. p. 185.

The principal commutation tables published in England are contained in the following works:—David Jones, Value of Annuities and Reversionary Payments, issued in parts by the Useful Knowledge Society, completed in 1843; Jenkin Jones, New Rate of Mortality, 1843; G. Davies, Treatise on Annuities, 1825 (issued 1855); David Chisholm, Commutation Tables, 1858; Nelson’s Contributions to Vital Statistics, 1857; Jardine Henry, Government Life Annuity Commutation Tables, 1866 and 1873; Institute of Actuaries Life Tables, 1872; R.P. Hardy, Valuation Tables, 1873; and Dr William Farr’s contributions to the sixth (1844), twelfth (1849), and twentieth (1857) Reports of the Registrar General in England (English Tables, I. 2), and to the English Life Table, 1864.

The theory of annuities may be further studied in the discussions in the English Journal of the Institute of Actuaries. The institute was founded in the year 1848, the first sessional meeting being held in January 1849. Its establishment has contributed in various ways to promote the study of the theory of life contingencies. Among these may be specified the following:—Before it was formed, students of the subject worked for the most part alone, and without any concert; and when any person had made an improvement in the theory, it had little chance of becoming publicly known unless he wrote a formal treatise on the whole subject. But the formation of the institute led to much greater interchange of opinion among actuaries, and afforded them a ready means of making known to their professional associates any improvements, real or supposed, that they thought they had made.

Again, the discussions which follow the reading of papers before the institute have often served, first, to bring out into bold relief differences of opinion that were previously unsuspected, and afterwards to soften down those differences,—to correct extreme opinions in every direction, and to bring about a greater agreement of opinion on many important subjects. In no way, probably, have the objects of the institute been so effectually advanced as by the publication of its Journal. The first number of this work, which was originally called the Assurance Magazine, appeared in September 1850, and it has been continued quarterly down to the present time. It was originated by the public spirit of two well-known actuaries (Mr Charles Jellicoe and Mr Samuel Brown), and was adopted as the organ of the Institute of Actuaries in the year 1852, and called the Assurance Magazine and Journal of the Institute of Actuaries, Mr Jellicoe continuing to be the editor,—a post he held until the year 1867, when he was succeeded by Mr T.B. Sprague (who contributed to the 9th edition of this Encyclopaedia an elaborate article on “Annuities,” on which the above account is based).

The name was again changed in 1866, the words “Assurance Magazine” being dropped; but in the following year it was considered desirable to resume these, for the purpose of showing the continuity of the publication, and it is now called the Journal of the Institute of Actuaries and Assurance Magazine. This work contains not only the papers read before the institute (to which have been appended of late years short abstracts of the discussions on them), and many original papers which were unsuitable for reading, together with correspondence, but also reprints of many papers published elsewhere, which from various causes had become difficult of access to the ordinary reader, among which may be specified various papers which originally appeared in the Philosophical Transactions, the Philosophical Magazine, the Mechanics’ Magazine, and the Companion to the Almanac; also translations of various papers from the French, German, and Danish. Among the useful objects which the continuous publication of the Journal of the institute has served, we may specify in particular two:—that any supposed improvement in the theory was effectually submitted to the criticisms of the whole actuarial profession, and its real value speedily discovered; and that any real improvement, whether great or small, being placed on record, successive writers have been able, one after the other, to take it up and develop it, each commencing where the previous one had left off.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica (1911)


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  • Article Name: Annuity
  • Author: Agostino Von Hassell
  • Description: Definition of Annuity In accordance with the work A Dictionary of Law, this is a description of Annuity : A sum of money [...]

This entry was last updated: October 23, 2016


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