Retirement Planning Blog

Fixed Index Annuity Sales Surge with Strong Start in 2018 (And Why It Matters)

Fixed Index Annuity Sales Surge with Strong Start in 2018 (And Why It Matters)

Good news for insurance companies and customers who purchase their retirement-income products. In the first quarter of 2018, purchases of fixed index annuities rose 10% when compared with the same period last year. Not only that, overall fixed annuity sales also saw a significant upward swing.

Fixed index annuity sales were $14.2 billion for the first quarter, according to Wink’s Sales & Market Report, a leading resource in the insurance industry for indexed annuity sales. Not only did sales rise year over year, they were also up 4.4% when compared to the previous quarter, Wink reports. Index annuities have a floor of no less than zero percent and limited excess interest that is based in part by the up-or-down movements of an external index, such as Standard and Poor’s 500®.

Another financial research firm, LIMRA, also observes that fixed annuity sales are on the rise. It projects sales of fixed-rate annuities to reach more than $50 billion by 2019. LIMRA calculates that this is close to 50% greater than the $34 billion in purchases of fixed-rate annuities reached last year.

Still, these strong numbers are short of the record—$60 billion plus. That figure was spurred by retirement savers seeking conservative market protection and guaranteed income strategies in the wake of the Great Recession.

Overall, LIMRA forecasts all annuity sales will grow 5%-10% year-over-year in 2018. And they may even rise up up to 5% in 2019. Read More

More Annuities May Come to an Employer Retirement Plan Near You

More Annuities May Come to an Employer Retirement Plan Near You

The American workplace has seen remarkable advancements over the past 20 years. From technology that has revolutionized the way we work, to the physical environments we work in, to the changing workplace conditions, almost every facet of the American workplace has been modernized. Every facet, it turns out, except, perhaps, the workplace retirement plan.

But American workers may soon benefit from new options within their retirement plans, thanks to several bipartisan bills. The pieces of legislation are currently under review by a congressional subcommittee, and they are designed to update the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

“Many ERISA provisions related to retirement plan administration are in desperate need of updating, with some having last been revised over two decades ago,” according to Rep. Tim Walberg, chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions.

Walberg voiced this opinion during a recent hearing on “Enhancing Retirement Security: Examining Proposals to Simplify and Modernize Retirement Plan Administration.” Read More

Long-Term Care Planning – Why You Can’t Afford to Ignore It

Long-Term Care Planning - Why You Can't Afford to Ignore It

Long-term care planning (or LTC planning for short) isn’t perhaps the most exciting topic. But most people can’t afford to ignore it in retirement. In one of its bulletins, AARP observes “by the time you reach 65, chances are about 50-50 that you will require paid long-term care someday.”

For Christine Benz, Director of Personal Finance for Morningstar, it’s the four-ton elephant in the room. “Long-term care is the unsolved problem for so many people,” she told AARP. And probability of use might not be the only reason why. There is also the hefty price tag to consider.

For years, Genworth has tracked the monthly national median costs of various long-term care services in its “Cost of Care Survey.” Those nationwide costs swelled by double-digit percentages from 2009 to 2020, with some LTC services seeing a 30+% cost increase.

“What about state to state?” you may ask. Let’s look at the median expense for a common LTC need, nursing home care, and its cost depends on where you live. In 2020, the least expensive state for a semi-private room in a nursing home was Texas at $5,019 per month. Meanwhile, Connecticut was the most expensive state at $12,927 per month.

Here’s another clincher to think about. Those estimates are without factoring the cost impact of other healthcare needs in retirement as well!

Knowledge is foresight, so it pays to understand the basics of long-term care and what it can entail for retirement planning purposes. Read More

Strategies to Help You Bridge Retirement Income Gaps

Strategies to Help You Bridge Retirement Income Gaps

The mantra for success in real estate is “location, location, location.” For success in retirement, the canned phrase becomes “income, income, income.”

 When you retire, you no longer have a salary from full-time employment. Or maybe you were an entrepreneur, so you brought home the bacon in other ways, such as business ownership. Either way, your income situation will probably change.

A key factor for living well is how much money you can expect to receive every month from your own unique mix of retirement income sources. However, some Americans may fall short of the income they need for their golden years. Consider research done by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, for instance.

In one study, center researchers found that as many as 40% of baby boomers in the study may run out of money in retirement. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s Retirement Readiness Ratings, released in 2014, only 56.7% of “early” baby boomers (born from 1948 to 1954) and 58.5% of late boomers (1955 to 1964) will have the financial resources required to meet their retirement expenses. The remaining retirees would struggle with income that falls short of their needs.

The EBRI’s model indicates that a household is considered likely to run short of money if its assets can’t meet “minimum retirement expenditures.” This is a combination of expenses from the federal Consumer Expenditure Survey (as a function of age and income); some health insurance and out-of-pocket health expenses; and expenses from nursing-home and home-health care. Read More

Social Security 101 — How Much You Know About Your Benefits Matters

Social Security 101 -- How Much You Know About Your Benefits Matters

Guess what, class. The results are in… and most of us did not pass a very important test. Nearly half of Americans age 50+ failed a basic Social Security quiz, according to a newly released nationwide consumer poll by MassMutual Life Insurance Company.

Why should this news alarm us all? Because Social Security is a major income source for many Americans in retirement. And if we don’t know how to maximize our benefits, or even know what questions to ask regarding how to get our best payout, it can hurt us. We may be leaving money on the table when we need that income the most — whether enjoying healthy income for your lifestyle or enjoying greater income certainty for monthly retirement expenses.

In some sense, it’s as if each point not scored is potentially a dollar amount of benefits we may lose, unless we start paying closer attention. It’s time to consider how much in Social Security benefits we have accrued and start exploring strategies to maximize them.

“Getting Social Security right is critically important to inform plans for other income stream needs later in life as it may be difficult, and sometimes not even possible, to hit the reset button,” said Mike Fanning, head of MassMutual, U.S. “This is not a retirement planning conversation. This is a longevity planning conversation, and near-retirees have the power and responsibility to ensure that they protect and receive every dollar they deserve in Social Security retirement benefits when the time comes.” Read More

The Importance of Tax Efficiency in Retirement

The Importance of Tax Efficiency in Retirement

You may not realize it, but Uncle Sam becomes your partner in your retirement.

Back in 2010, Lincoln Financial Group sponsored a survey of affluent retirees that shows how big of an effect taxes may have. The survey gathered data from people ages 62 through 75 with annual household incomes greater than $100,000.

Of all retirement spending areas, the study found that federal income taxes were the retirees’ largest expense. “They are greater than many individuals planned for prior to retirement—and a growing source of concern,” the survey reported.

If you don’t want everyone’s least favorite uncle to be the “majority owner” of your retirement income, it’s important to take steps to maximize the tax efficiency of your retirement income plan. Read More

Your Generation Has Its Own Take on Retirement

Your Generation Has Its Own Take on Retirement

Whether you are one of the estimated 75 million Baby Boomers, 66 million Gen Xers or 75 million Millennials, you have an opinion on your retirement, whether it’s now or not quite here yet.

What’s also important are the concerns you most worry about most and how ready you think you will be when your retirement day finally arrives. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of us differ in those retirement views by generation. And it matters because of how millions of Americans approach their financial affairs.

Spouses, parents, children, family members, friends, colleagues. These people are a few of many folks to whom Americans may turn for seeking second opinions, weighing their retirement anxieties against others’ own, gauging their financial progress, and dealing with other money matters.

Luckily for all of us, companies conduct periodic research to give us insight into what drives our attitudes and behavior on planning for and living in retirement. Their studies can also show how our expectations may actually match up—or in many cases—differ from what we believe lies ahead for us. These results have the potential to enlighten us into action to better help us achieve what we each want for our own retirement.

In its just-published seventh annual Retirement Income Strategies and Expectations (RISE) survey of investors, Franklin Templeton Investments sought to understand perceptions and concerns about retirement savings strategies. The RISE survey specifically looked at how retirement concerns differ by generation.

Not only did the survey find differences between generations, it also uncovered differences between genders within the same generation. Read More

51% of Americans Think They Will Be Financially Comfortable in Retirement

51% of Americans Think They Will Be Financially Comfortable in Retirement

The latest is in on how many people think they will be financially comfortable in retirement.

Nearly half of non-retired Americans said they foresaw an uncomfortable retirement, according to new findings from Gallup. Meanwhile, 51% predicted they would have enough money for comfortable living in the golden years.

What’s the verdict for after retirement? Good news on that front, as the numbers go up. Almost 8 in 10 retirees (78%) reported that they were financially comfortable.

It’s a trend that has been pretty consistent since Gallup started tracking the data in 2002. In past years, 72% and 83%, respectively, were the lowest and highest measures of retired Americans reporting financial retirement comfort. Read More

How Living Benefits can Help You in Retirement

How Living Benefits can Help You in Retirement

Many people know about life insurance and how it may give financial protection. What about using life insurance in retirement? Just look online, and you will find all sorts of opinions on the subject.

No question about it, everyone’s retirement will be different. However, health costs may be a substantial expense for many households, as research shows. And while we all hope to get lucky and be like those octogenarians who take up running and finish a marathon, reality (and statistics) suggests we should be ready for the alternatives.

There’s good news. Consumer demands and care needs have evolved. In response, life insurance companies have come out with new-generation life insurance products – “hybrid” policies that have a death benefit, but that also let you accelerate those benefit proceeds for qualifying health situations. Read More

Are Annuities Taxable? It Depends

Are Annuities Taxable? It Depends

Are annuities taxable? It’s an important question if you are shopping for annuities with the goal of guaranteed income. An annuity can help us sleep better at night, knowing how much income the contract will provide each month and that it can last as long as we do.

But while guaranteed income may sound good, there is also the flip-side to consider. You may wonder about whether annuity contracts might pose a potential tax trap.

It’s smart to consider the topic. And why? Because taxes are a primary concern for people in retirement. While released in 2010, a survey by Lincoln Financial Group still has relevance today. 

The study of affluent retirees found that federal income taxes were their largest expense. Among the respondents—age 62 through 75 with annual household incomes greater than $100,000—taxes were their largest expense. The survey results show that nearly 1 of every 3 dollars a retiree spent went to taxes.

Good news, though. A 2016 article by the Center for Retirement Research suggests that a “tax time bomb” may not be inevitable for many retirees. However, that premise is based upon 2007 U.S. household taxpayer numbers crunched by the Hamilton Project.

And other research, like a 2014 study on middle-income household awareness of retirement tax issues by Bankers Life, shows that taxes could well be a considerable chunk of future retiree spending. 

All of which leads back to that question: How could throwing annuities into the mix affect a tax bill? Read More

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