If you’ve been reading Retirement Income Visions™ for any length of time, you know that I’m a fan of fixed index annuities (“FIA’s”) with income riders, or guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefit’s (“GMWB’s”) as part of a retirement income planning solution in the right situation. The ability to create a predictable retirement paycheck with a flexible start date that includes an investment component with upside potential, downside protection, and a potential death benefit is unparalleled in the investment and insurance world.
For you horse race fans, that’s what I call hitting the trifecta! Unlike horse race betting, when you invest in a FIA with an income rider with a highly-rated life insurance company, while the results aren’t guaranteed since they’re subject to the claims paying ability of each individual insurance carrier, your bet is pretty secure given the stellar historical claims paying experience of the life insurance industry.
It’s important to understand that very few FIA’s that are sold today include GMWB’s as part of their base product. If you need sustainable lifetime income beginning at a specific age, you will generally need to purchase an optional income rider when you complete your FIA application. Only about two-thirds of FIA’s on the market today offer an optional income rider. An income rider charge of between 0.75% and 0.95% of your contract’s income account value will generally be deducted from your contract’s accumulation value each year.
Assuming that your goal is to maximize sustainable lifetime income, once you, or more likely your retirement income planner, narrows your FIA search to those that include a GMWB or optional income rider, illustrations need to be prepared for multiple products offered by highly-rated life insurance companies that are well-established in the FIA business to determine which ones will provide you with the greatest amount of income for your desired investment amount(s) beginning at various ages.
This is a difficult task due to the fact that there are several variables that are used in the calculation of annual income that will be received from a particular FIA. After analyzing hundreds of FIA illustrations, trust me, it requires a lot of skill, hands-on experience, and access to dozens of options, including appointment as a licensed life insurance agent with multiple life insurance carriers, in order to offer an independent optimal recommendation for a particular situation. One product may provide greater income beginning at age 62, however, another one may be more suitable if you don’t plan on taking withdrawals until age 70.
What about cap rates? Assuming your goal isn’t to create a predictable retirement paycheck, there’s no need to purchase a FIA with a GMWB or income rider. If this is your situation, you should be paying close attention to the caps, or limits, on interest that will be credited to your account each year that are associated with various indexing methods offered by a particular FIA depending upon its performance during the previous contract year.
If, on the other hand, your primary goal is to optimize lifetime income beginning at a particular age, cap rates, while important, should be a secondary consideration when choosing a FIA. While higher cap rates may result in a greater accumulation value that may more seamlessly absorb income rider charges associated with good market performance and may potentially result in a greater death benefit, they generally won’t affect the amount of lifetime income that you will ultimately receive from a particular FIA. This is due to the fact that the lifetime income calculation of most FIA’s is generally independent of indexing method performance. Furthermore, even if there’s no remaining accumulation value in your contract as a result of income withdrawals over many years, you will continue to receive your income so long as you’re alive.
While cap rates are often hyped by life insurance companies when promoting FIA’s, they should be a secondary consideration when your primary goal is to create and optimize a predictable retirement paycheck beginning at a specific age. If this is your situation, you or your retirement income planner should be devoting the majority of your research to locating those FIA’s offered by highly-rated life insurance companies that are well-established in the FIA business that include a GMWB or income rider that will enable you to achieve your goal.
Robert Klein, CPA, PFS, CFP®, RICP®, CLTC® is the founder and president of Retirement Income Center in Newport Beach, California. Bob is also the sole proprietor of Robert Klein, CPA. Bob applies his unique background, experience, expertise, and specialization in tax-sensitive retirement income planning strategies to optimize the longevity of his clients’ after-tax retirement income and assets. He does this as an independent financial advisor using customized holistic planning solutions based on each client’s needs and personality.