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Actuarial Life Table


An Actuarial Life Table, also known as a mortality table, is a statistical chart used in finance that displays the probability of a person at a certain age dying before their next birthday. It determines this likelihood based on thorough demographic data. These tables are integral for life insurance companies and pension plans, as they help calculate premiums, payouts, and pension benefits.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Actuarial Life Table” is: æk-tʃuˈɛriəl laɪf ˈteɪbəl.

Key Takeaways

  • Defining Mortality Rates: An Actuarial Life Table is a chart that displays the probability of a person at a certain age dying before their next birthday. These statistics enable actuaries and statisticians to establish and forecast life expectancy, survival rates, and mortality rates, among other essential parameters.
  • Economic Predictability: Life tables function as critical tools for the insurance and pension industries by providing a credible basis for making predictions about life expectancy. This valuable data can assist in establishing premium rates, determining policy reserves, and distributing dividends.
  • Social and Health Planning: Beyond the finance sector, these life tables are also very instrumental for social policymakers and health planners. By aiding in the anticipation of population changes, they can assist in planning for varying levels of demand for services such as healthcare and welfare support.


An Actuarial Life Table is fundamental in various industries such as insurance, finance, and retirement planning as it is a statistical representation of the probable lifespan of different age groups. It is essentially useful for actuaries and financial analysts to calculate the risk and probabilities associated with life insurance policies, annuities, pensions, etc. Companies rely on this table to project probable future payment obligations, set pricing models, manage financial reserves, as well as prepare for solvency. It forms the bedrock for risk assessment and decision-making processes in said fields. Its importance lies in its ability to provide crucial predictive data regarding longevity, critical for both individuals planning for the future and companies creating financial strategies.


An Actuarial Life Table, also known as a mortality table or life table, is an essential tool primarily used within the field of insurance, particularly life insurance, and retirement benefit planning. It serves to provide a statistical-based overview of mortality rates and survival probabilities for individuals at different ages. Such information is grounded on historical data and aids insurers and pension fund managers in formulating accurate predictions regarding the life expectancy of an individual or a group of individuals.

By leveraging the insights gathered from actuarial life tables, insurance companies can precisely determine the premiums to be charged from policyholders. This is based on the risk of death associated with individuals of different age groups, thus helping insurers maintain a balance between cost and risk and ensure the financial viability of their business. In terms of pension funds or annuities, these tables assist in creating an effective retirement plan by estimating how long the benefits need to stretch. Hence, the actuarial life table serves as a fundamental instrument for risk evaluation and financial planning in the insurance and retirement benefit sectors.


1. Insurance Companies: Actuarial life tables are a critical tool used by insurance companies to assess the life expectancy of an individual. This data helps the companies to set life insurance premiums. For example, based on the data from a life table, an insurance agency may determine that a 25-year-old non-smoking female has a high chance of living another 50 years, which will influence the premiums and benefits of life insurance plans offered to her.

2. Pension Scheme: Employers or pension fund managers use these tables to determine how much money is needed to support retired employees. Based on life expectancy data, they can estimate how long an average employee is likely to draw from their pension, and therefore how much money needs to be set aside during their working years to accommodate for that.

3. Social Security Administration: In the United States, the Social Security Administration uses actuarial life tables to determine the distribution of retirement and disability benefits. The life tables help to estimate the average lifespan of men and women at any given age, allowing them to adjust the dispersal of benefits accordingly. For example, if the life table shows a trend of increasing life expectancy, it may mean benefits need to be spread across a longer retirement period.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is an Actuarial Life Table?

An Actuarial Life Table is a statistical chart used in the insurance industry, which outlines the probability of a person at a certain age dying before their next birthday. The table estimates a person’s remaining lifetime probability at a given age.

What is the purpose of an Actuarial Life Table?

The primary purpose of an Actuarial Life Table is to provide a clear-cut risk assessment tool for insurance organizations and pension plans. They use this data to determine premium amounts and payout schedules based on individual’s age and life expectancy.

How is an Actuarial Life Table used in finance and business?

Besides usage in life insurance and pension plans, it’s also used for other financial decisions like setting annuity payments, retirement planning, and in some cases, determining mortgage rates.

Where does the information for an Actuarial Life Table come from?

The information in an Actuarial Life Table is derived from a broad set of real-world data, including census data, and historical mortality rates. The table is updated regularly to reflect current trends and improvements in life expectancy.

Can the Actuarial Life Table be applicable to everyone?

While the table provides a general evaluation of life expectancy based on age, it does not take into account a person’s lifestyle, health conditions, or family history. Therefore, individual life expectancy can deviate from the table’s figures.

Are Actuarial Life Tables the only way to measure life expectancy for insurance policies?

No, Actuarial Life Tables are one of several tools that insurers can use. They might also consider individual factors like health, occupation, and hobbies, using these variables to set premiums on a case-by-case basis.

Are Actuarial Life Table statistics the same in every country?

No, Actuarial Life Tables vary from country to country due to differences in average life expectancy and mortality rates. Factors such as healthcare systems, lifestyle, and general well-being of the population in different places influence these tables.

How often are Actuarial Life Tables updated?

The frequency of updates can vary. Typically, national statistics agencies update their tables every year or every few years to accurately reflect changes in life expectancy and mortality rates.

What does ‘period life table’ mean in an actuarial context?

A period life table presents the mortality rates and life expectancy for a population at a specific time, often a specific year. It is based on the mortality rates for different age groups observed in that period alone.

Who uses the Actuarial Life Table?

Primarily, insurance companies and pension plans use the table. However, other businesses like Public Health Organizations, Social Security Administration, demographers, economists, and medical researchers also find it valuable.

Related Finance Terms

  • Mortality Rate: This represents the frequency of death in a given population. It plays a critical role in the formulation of life tables.
  • Life Expectancy: It is an estimate of the average number of years a person is expected to live, based on the date of their birth, their current age, and other demographic factors like gender.
  • Survival Function: This is an essential concept in actuarial science. It calculates the probability of surviving to particular ages given a set of age-dependent mortality rates.
  • Annuity: A financial product that pays out a fixed stream of payments to an individual. These are primarily used as an income stream for retirees. Actuarial life tables can be used to calculate the money flow in and out of an annuity.
  • Underwriting: This is the process insurance companies use to assess the risk and set the price coverage. Actuarial life tables are essential tools in this process.

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