How Flexible are Flexible Premium Deferred Annuities?

How Flexible are Flexible Premium Deferred Annuities?

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When planning for retirement, you need to generate sustainable income that will meet your projected inflation-adjusted financial needs during various stages. This often requires multiple income-generating sources that ideally start, and potentially stop, to match your projected needs at different stages of retirement.

A diversified portfolio of fixed income investments that’s part of your overall portfolio generally needs to be designed to provide the desired after-tax income amounts and timing of same. The planning is complicated, should begin well in advance of retirement, and needs to be monitored and updated on a regular basis.

One popular investment that’s designed for the fixed income portion of a retirement income plan is a fixed index annuity (“FIA”) with an income rider. When you invest in a FIA, you’re purchasing a deferred annuity. As defined in the Glossary, a deferred annuity is an annuity that doesn’t mature or begin making payments until some future date.

Deferred Annuity Types

There are two types of deferred annuities, both of which are suitable for inclusion in a retirement income plan: (a) single premium deferred annuity (“SPDA”) and (b) flexible premium deferred annuity (“FPDA”). The basic difference between the two is the allowable investment frequency. A SPDA is a one-time investment whereas a FPDA provides for multiple investments in the same annuity.

The key to understanding FPDA’s, including how they will fit into a particular retirement income plan, is that flexibility is in the eye of the beholder, or, in this case, the insurance carrier that issues a particular product. While a FPDA by definition allows for multiple premiums, the number of years the additional premiums may be added and/or the premium amounts are often limited by the terms of an annuity contract. This can be problematic where ongoing investments of specific amounts are required to achieve a targeted level of retirement income.

Types of Flexibility Restrictions

While many FPDA’s provide for indefinite additional investments, several have a limited defined window of opportunity. To give you an idea of the possibilities, let’s take a look at the FIA offerings available through the life insurance agency with which I’m associated.

Of the 52 FIA’s currently offered by 14 carriers, all of which are highly rated, 25 are SPDA’s and 27, or 52%, are FPDA’s. 16 of the 27, or 59%, of the FPDA’s have no restrictions regarding the number of years additional premiums may be added or the amounts of same.

That leaves 11 FPDA’s with restrictions, seven of which limit the number of years that additional premiums may be added and four limit the additional premium amount. The seven FPDA’s that limit the number of years uses either one or three years as the limitation. The four that limit the premium amount are all offered by the same carrier which limits additional premiums to $25,000 per year.

Retirement income planning requires flexibility. The ability to make unlimited additional investments after the first contract year without restriction as to dollar amount is an important consideration in many cases when evaluating FIA’s with income riders. In summary, the type of fixed income annuity and product that you’re evaluating needs to dovetail with your projected financial needs to increase your opportunity for success.

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