One of Biden’s most important campaign promises was that he would not raise taxes on the middle class…see the full story on our partner Magnifi’s site
Data from 2020 is in and it is clear: annuities are increasingly popular among advisors, and we mean that in the strictest sense of “advisors”. Annuities sales have not just grown with broker-dealers, but also with RIAs. For many years RIAs shunned annuities, but recently two major changes have made RIAs warm to them. Firstly, annuities compensation has become more aligned with RIA pay models, and secondly, with so many clients retiring in a period of high volatility, there is a greater need than ever before. According to David Lau, CEO of DPL Financial, “RIAs historically have used mostly investment-only variable annuities with the occasional single-premium immediate annuity mixed in, and that is because annuities until recently haven’t been built to fit into their business model. He continued “One of the things that’s misunderstood about annuities is that in a low-interest-rate environment, it’s something you may not want to consider … In today’s market with interest rates where they are, it is about 41% more expensive to fund retirement income using a bond portfolio than it is using an annuity.”
FINSUM: That last quote about the affordability of annuities is a really key point. Annuities can play an important role in a portfolio more cheaply than most instruments right now, and do so with less risk.
Annuities have had a good 12 months and it is starting to seem like they are entering a golden age. Not only are the country’s demographics trending in favor of annuities, but the last year’s volatility and the recent rule change allowing annuities into 401(k)s are big tailwinds. Another big trend which helps is that since more and more companies are opting to offer 401(k) programs instead of DB plans, then people are ever more in need of guaranteed income. According to AIG, “It’s less about the vehicle. More plan sponsors and participants need to get comfortable with the creation of income … The only way to get guaranteed income is to annuitize retirement benefits. The question then is will annuities be offered in-plan or out-of-plan”.
FINSUM: The market and regulatory context are becoming better and better for utilizing annuities for clients. It might be time to think about these options if you aren’t already.
Interest rates are still very low. So low that retirees are being starved of income. With that in mind, some are employing annuities in unique ways to help increase interest income. In particular, one strategy being employed for older investors who want to boost income in the “safety” portion of their portfolio is to use multi-year guaranteed annuities (MYGAs) to boost interest income. MYGAs typically pay well in excess of what CDs and other cash management products pay. This is because the insurer behind the annuity can invest the capital in a diversified portfolio, including longer-term holdings. MYGAs are not FDIC insured like CDs, but they do come with contractual guarantees and are often from companies with great credit ratings.
FINSUM: This is a very good strategy for certain investors who can afford to tie up capital in an annuity and are looking for ultra-safe but above-market interest income relative to similar instruments.
One of Biden’s most important campaign promises was that he would not raise taxes on the middle class, or more specifically those earning less than $400,000. Accordingly, it is a surprise to see a new proposal from Democrats that would do exactly that. Biden and the Democrats appear to be going after “stepped up basis” in inheritance taxes as a way to raise tax revenue and fund the infrastructure bill. Right now, when inherited assets get transferred, their basis resets to whatever the market value is at the time of inheritance. In this way, heirs only pay capital gains on the increase in value that occurs while they hold the asset. Biden and his administration wants to change the rules in order to keep the basis in place from when the original buyer purchased the asset. This change would not only affect the wealthy in a big way, but also the middle class, as the basis for many assets would suddenly be very low, meaning large taxes would be due no matter the size of the estate being transferred. A good example might be an inherited condo from a parent that was bought 30 years ago and has appreciated from $100,000 at purchase to $600,000 now. Under the current system, a middle class earner who inherited and decided to immediately sell the condo would pay almost no taxes. However, under the new proposal, almost $100,000 in taxes would be due because basis would be applied to the original purchase price!
FINSUM: This is a big change that advisors need to be watching closely!
401(k)s and annuities are two of the most prominent retirement savings products in the US. However, clients often have a hard time distinguishing one’s advantages versus the other (and disadvantages). In reality, they are quite different products. The only cross-over between them (for now) is that they are both geared towards retirement, and that one can cash out a 401(k) and use it to buy an annuity. The big advantage of 401(k)s is that there are no sales incentives/commissions for a client to take part in an employer’s plan, as well as the fact that they can benefit from employer’s matching their contributions, something that cannot happen in annuities. Annuities, however, have the big advantage of guaranteed income, and because of the ability to choose which annuity one buys, there is more freedom in investment selection. Both have similar terms for early withdrawals.
FINSUM: These products are also great in concert with one another. For example, using part of a 401(k) cash-out to buy a deferred annuity, allowing upside in the 401(k) and guaranteed income in the annuity. Soon enough annuities will be allowed in 401(k)s.