Longevity Insurance is an App

Longevity Insurance is an App

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App: A self-contained program or piece of software designed to fulfill a particular purpose (Google Definition). A smartphone would be nothing more than a paperweight if it didn’t have any apps. The most basic function of a smartphone, i.e., making and receiving phone calls, wouldn’t be possible without a phone app.

Apps are the lifeblood of a smartphone. Mobile phone and data plans generate billions of dollars of revenue each year for wireless communications companies. The phone, itself, is secondary, and, as such, is typically heavily discounted when phone and data plans are purchased.

An analogy can be made to longevity insurance. Many, if not most, people are under the mistaken belief that when they purchase longevity insurance, they’re buying a product (i.e., smartphone) whose sole purpose is to provide them with lifetime income beginning at age 85 in the event that they live to a ripe old age.

Let’s dispel two myths. First of all, there’s technically no such thing as a longevity insurance product. You won’t receive a “longevity insurance” contract from an insurance company. When you buy longevity insurance, you’re buying an app. In order to use the app, you will need to purchase either a deferred income annuity (“DIA”) or a fixed index annuity (“FIA”) with an income rider, with DIA’s being favored as the traditional longevity insurance product.

DIA’s and FIA’s with income riders are both fixed income annuities that provide the ability to (a) receive income beginning in a future year, and (b) have the income be paid for the remainder of one’s life and a spouse’s life if married. The main difference between DIA’s and FIA’s when it comes to lifetime income is the start date. With a DIA, there’s a fixed start date that’s contractually defined. FIA’s with income riders have a flexible income start date that can typically begin one year after purchase or at any time thereafter during the life of the contract.

Second, unless you purchase a DIA and choose it at the time of application, lifetime income doesn’t have to begin at age 85. There’s no fixed income starting date associated with longevity insurance. You can purchase a DIA that pays lifetime income beginning at age 75. In addition, you can purchase a term DIA where income is paid for a fixed number of months or years. As an example, income could begin at age 82 and end at age 87. Furthermore, as previously explained, if you purchase a FIA with an income rider, other than stating the earliest possible income start date, a FIA contract doesn’t require you to begin taking withdrawals on a specific date.

Although DIA’s and FIA’s with income riders may be purchased to provide what’s marketed as longevity insurance, this is only one application of both products. What is thought of as longevity insurance, i.e., lifetime income beginning at age 85, accounts for a small portion of fixed income annuity product sales. While a later starting date generally will result in a greater amount of lifetime income, all else being equal, most retirees need to begin taking income distributions to cover expenses at an earlier age.

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