Displaying items by tag: fixed annuities
With interest rates so low there has been increasing interest in the role that annuities can play for those near or entering retirement. Bonds just aren’t playing the dual roles of safe haven and income source that they once did, and annuities are a naturally inheritor of that role for the foreseeable future. However, one thing that many are not clear about is how well fixed and variable annuities can work together. While fixed annuities offer guaranteed income, they are susceptible to inflation. Accordingly, many retirees might also want to have some upside that will allow their payouts to move higher. Enter variable annuities, which can offer enhanced income in up markets (but do risk lower payments in down markets).
FINSUM: Fixed and variable annuities work well as a pair. The portion invested in fixed offers guaranteed income, while the variable portion offers upside potential.
The market has been extremely volatile this year and that has put many investors on edge, especially those nearing retirement who need to rely on their portfolios for regular income. Treasury yields have gotten so low that they are not a good source of yield. So where to turn? One option is fixed annuities, also called multi-year guaranteed annuities. In contrast to fixed-index annuities or equity-index annuities, the return on MYGAs is not tied to an index. Such MYGAs are currently offering spreads of as much as 300 bp over Treasuries, representing a strong opportunity for those who need guaranteed income.
FINSUM: Two things to bear in mind when considering these—they are generally quite illiquid as the money is “locked up”, and secondly, they do have default risk but often can have limited losses because of state guaranty associations.
Advisors who are receiving inbound interest from clients about annuities might be interested in browsing a list of top recent providers. AIG, John Hancock, Lincoln Financial Group, Pacific Life, and Prudential regularly figure among the top players in the space. That said, data from 2019 has highlighted a new leader of the back—Jackson. “Jackson has dominated the variable annuity market for the past 7 years. In 2019, Jackson diversified its annuity sales to focus on growing its fixed annuity market share, which propelled its overall growth in 2019”, according to an annuities strategist.
FINSUM: One thing that is interesting is that the annuities industry is actually getting a little less consolidated (which stands in contrast to other product sectors, e.g. ETFs). The top three providers only account for 22% market share, down from 25% in 2014.
A lot of advisors and investors are looking at fixed annuities right now, especially fixed index annuities. Such products offer principal protection and lifetime income, both of which are in short supply given current market conditions. It is important to remember though, that FIAs were only built to beat CD returns by a small margin, they are not supposed to have huge upside. With that said, there are ways to maximize returns, such as using income riders. These are extra features which provide higher lifetime income payments are a future date of your choice. They need to be added when you buy the annuity, not later, and do have annual fees.
FINSUM: Income riders are most popular with fixed index annuities, but do show up in some variable annuities and SPIAs.
One of the most commonly asked client questions about annuities is “what is the best age to buy one?” The answer, as advisors know, is that there isn’t one; it depends on your financial goals and circumstances. That said, there are a couple things to bear in mind. Firstly, those in their mid-40s or younger should almost certainly not consider annuities (outside of some variable annuities) because they have the time to take additional risk (and get the additional growth) of direct exposure to the market. On the other end, annuity availability for those 80 and older declines rapidly. Accordingly, depending on circumstances, the sweet spot is likely in that range.
FINSUM: Annuities seem to be best bought for what they guarantee, not what they might offer, as downside protection and income protection are truly the name of the game.