Annuity

Annuity Prices 101: How the Cost of Those Guarantees is Determined

Annuity Prices 101: How the Cost of Those Guarantees is Determined

How is an annuity priced? And why should it matter to you? While you may be exploring an annuity for your retirement, many Americans count on fixed annuity contracts as a safeguard against today’s economic uncertainty.

In many ways, retirees and retirement savers have had a rough go in this ever-changing economic climate. Retired Americans have sought to find choices that pay sufficient regular income for their monthly household needs. Risk-averse savers also have been hit particularly hard, as interest rates still remain near historic lows.

Millions of people have found peace of mind by receiving a lifetime income stream from an annuity contract. This type of payout will guarantee someone a fixed sum of money on a regular basis for as long as he or she lives.

But how can you, the annuitant on the contract, know if you are getting a good deal on the annuity (a fair annuity price) when you buy one for your portfolio? There are several factors that enter into how a life insurance company will price its annuity payouts.

To help you receive the best “bang for your buck,” it’s good to understand how these factors can affect the pricing of annuities by insurance companies — and the impact on the annuity payout you will receive. Read More

Is an Annuity a Liquid Asset? What to Expect

Is an Annuity a Liquid Asset? What to Expect

Annuities can provide retirement savers with many unique benefits: tax-deferred growth, guaranteed lifetime income, guaranteed interest rates, and protection from downside risk, to name a few.

For the most part, the IRS doesn’t have limits on how much money can be placed inside an annuity, giving people more opportunity to take advantage of the contractual guarantees. And if you want more growth potential for your money, fixed annuities and fixed index annuities can earn higher interest while protecting your principal.

However, one limitation that annuities have is their liquidity. Annuity owners give up having complete liquidity in exchange for these benefits, and if their money is in fixed-type annuity contracts, that is a very safe place with the dollar-for-dollar reserves that insurance companies must maintain.

So, are annuities a liquid asset? Yes, they offer some liquidity, but not as much liquidity as you might find in other types of assets in today’s markets. It’s a trade-off for those rock-solid, guaranteed benefits that they provide.

Even so, there are some provisions for liquidity in annuity contracts. You might access your money in a variety of ways: free withdrawals, cumulative free withdrawals, and waivers of surrender charges (where you get your money back in a qualifying situation) are a few.

Let’s talk about the liquidity of annuities in more detail. Read More

What is an Annuity Free Withdrawal?

What is an Annuity Free Withdrawal?

One of the chief criticisms of annuities is their relative lack of liquidity. This is true in some respects. Annuity owners give up complete liquidity in exchange for other benefits, including insurer guarantees for lifetime income, guaranteed growth, or protection from downside risk.

Many annuities now come with guaranteed income riders that can be turned off and on while letting you still access at least some principal. And most contracts do offer something called “free withdrawals.” Read More

How Much Income Will Your Annuity Provide?

How Much Income Will Your Annuity Provide?

How much income will your annuity contract pay you? The answer depends on what age you start collecting income from your annuity.

If you start income at age 70-75, you will receive higher payouts. If you begin your annuity income in your mid-50s, it will be less than what you would receive in your 60s or later.

Annuities therefore resemble Social Security in that their payouts will increase the longer you wait to take them. But annuities with qualified money, or pre-tax dollars, in them have required minimum distributions that must be taken by age 72.

Why is this? Since the insurance company is on the hook for paying you guaranteed income for a certain period or life, it manages its risk based on the age of when you start that guaranteed income stream.

The insurance company also builds estimates of statistically how long it believes you will live into every single one of its income payments. These estimates are based on life expectancy and mortality data. Read More

How You Can Use Annuities for Greater Tax Efficiency in Retirement

How You Can Use Annuities for Greater Tax Efficiency in Retirement

As an annuity owner, you take comfort in knowing that you have planned for an uninterrupted lifelong retirement income stream. Working alongside other income sources from your nest egg, it will pay out, like clockwork, to fund the retirement you have always imagined.

But have you considered whether your income streams are as “efficient” as possible? Whatever retirement strategy you choose — income and all — needs to be “tax-efficient” to ensure you get the most mileage out of your money.

This is just one more piece in the retirement planning puzzle that each of us must solve. When we don’t plan for retirement, we run the risk of underspending or overspending our retirement dollars.

What if underspending doesn’t seem like a problem, but rather like an advantage? Consider what events and opportunities to which you may say “no.” And simply because underspending pressures you to have a scarcity mentality, or when you don’t really know if you can afford them.

Perhaps you might pass on an important family event or skip that overseas vacation you always expected to be a highlight of your retirement years. All because you didn’t have a true picture of your anticipated income compared to your expenses. Read More

Don’t Let These Annuity Myths Fool You

Don't Let These Annuity Myths Fool You

Before you add an annuity to your income strategy, it’s prudent to understand what an annuity does and what it doesn’t do.

Essentially, annuities are insurance contracts. They are built to pay lifelong streams of fixed income, protect money from market losses, or offer tax-deferred money growth.

Indeed, billions of dollars sit in these contracts. A large part of that is due to their popularity for lifetime income, or for higher growth potential than with other low-risk interest-earning vehicles.

Nonetheless, there are still a number of myths and misconceptions about annuities. That might be attributable to a few factors, from annuities being fairly complex to misleading annuity marketing and sales tactics being touted.

This isn’t to say that annuities don’t have a place in a retirement portfolio.

Just like with any other financial vehicle, though, they must have a specified role. That can include solving for particular retirement risks, working in tandem with other parts of a portfolio to reach certain goals, or even simply providing peace of mind with predictable retirement income streams.

Let’s break down some annuity myths and misunderstandings, one-by-one, and learn more about them. Read More

Do Annuities Make Sense When Interest Rates Are Low?

Do Annuities Make Sense When Interest Rates Are Low?

If you are approaching retirement, chances are you have been started exploring how you might enjoy a financially confident retired lifestyle.

This includes maximizing the value of your retirement portfolio – and creating dependable income streams that last as long as you need them to.

For retirement investors, one way to solve for this concern is drawing on a lifetime income stream from an annuity. But how appealing are annuities in the face of historically low interest rates? Especially ones such as those we have experienced for the last several years?

Since 2009, in the aftermath of the Great Recession, most developed countries have experienced a low-interest rate environment. Monetary authorities have sought to use low-interest rate schemas in order to spur economic growth and prevent deflation.

The U.S. saw rates cut to effectively 0% until 2016, when they began to inch higher. Still, today, the federal funds rate is only 2.5%, up just half-a-point from this time last year when it measured 2%. Read More

Managing Inflation Risk with Fixed Annuity Payouts

Managing Inflation Risk with Fixed Annuity Payouts

“Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber, and as deadly as a hit man,” Ronald Reagan once famously said.

And the worst time to try to fight this formidable foe is when you are in retirement, living on a fixed income. Many people have some employment, or some involvement with entrepreneurship, for a stream of retirement income.

But chances are they don’t offer wage increases, or other inflation-countering benefits that you might have had in your working years, to help you keep pace.

Annuities are one of the few ways to obtain retirement income that is paid out as long as you live, making them a popular component of many retirement plans.

Investors have been using fixed annuities and fixed index annuities to provide lifetime income. These guaranteed income streams cover monthly costs and help people maintain their standard of living.

But if the annuity payout is fixed at the outset of the contract, by design it can’t be increased to keep pace with inflation. Should inflation rise 10% over time, for example, the buying power of a $3,300 monthly annuity payout erodes to $2,970.

This threat has the potential to affect a retiree’s lifestyle and could even require making unwelcome cuts in spending.

So how can investors seeking the benefits of annuities manage this inherent “inflation risk” and offset its impact? These are just a few of the ways. Read More

How Can a Market Value Adjusted Annuity Be Affected by Interest Rates?

How Can a Market Value Adjusted Annuity Be Affected by Interest Rates?

Have annuities ever popped up on your retirement-planning radar? You might have come across some annuity contracts with a Market Value Adjustment feature. Several fixed index annuities and multi-year guarantee annuities (MYGAs) include this factor in their contracts.

A market value adjustment (MVA) simply refers to the ability of an insurance carrier to offer you higher rates by protecting itself against bond market declines. When an annuity has a market value adjustment in its contract, it’s called a market value adjusted annuity (or MVA annuity for short).

Normally the insurance company holds the interest-rate risk when you buy a fixed annuity. But an MVA annuity gives you the chance to earn a higher rate in exchange for sharing in some of that risk with your insurer.

After all, bond values are sensitive to interest rate movements. So one way to think of this is as a “safeguard” for the insurance carrier against bond market losses.  

If an MVA annuity happens to fall into your retirement purview, here’s a helpful look at what it might involve. Read More

How Annuity Indexing Works

How Annuity Indexing Works

Annuities come in all shapes and sizes. And when you are considering one as part of your retirement strategy, sure, it’s important to determine whether an annuity is right for your financial situation.

But there are more annuities than hedge funds in today’s financial marketplace. That is a staggering number of options. If, relative to other solutions, an annuity does help you achieve your retirement goals, then choosing the right one is just as important as its role in your portfolio.

When people plan for their retirement, they usually have one chance to get it right. Your choices will determine whether you live well in later years – or will fall short and will have to deal with the results. This applies just as much to annuity purchase decisions as well as other financial choices for your future.

If you happen to be considering a fixed index annuity for your retirement, understanding how the annuity indexing works is a crucial component.

Your index annuity has many ways of being credited interest. And you might also have a wide menu of index options, from the plain-vanilla S&P 500 price index to newly-minted “volatility controlled” indices.  

First, let’s explore how annuity indexing works. This will cover only annuities of the fixed variety.

Then we will address the new wave of indexing options that include volatility controls, which are a debated topic in the industry. Read More

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