Annuities Fixed Index Annuities Retirement Income Planning

No Pension? Create Your Own

Unlike a traditional pension plan that pays a defined stream of income between retirement age and death, a fixed income annuity strategy can be flexible.

Last week’s post, A Retirement Paycheck is Essential, emphasized that it’s imperative for each and every one of us to have a retirement income plan. The cornerstone of a retirement income plan is a retirement paycheck. Specifically, we need to know that when we stop working, we will receive a predetermined monthly payment for the rest of our life, and, if married, our spouse’s life. Furthermore, this monthly payment needs to be in addition to whatever Social Security benefits we may receive.

Given the fact that the majority of us won’t receive a pension from an employer’s defined benefit plan that our parents’ generation took for granted (see the November 21, 2011 post, Where Have All the Pensions Gone?), it’s incumbent upon us to create our own retirement paycheck. This isn’t an task and generally requires the assistance of an experienced retirement income planner.

As pointed out in the Where Have All the Pensions Gone? Post, the nature of many investment vehicles don’t lend themselves to plan for a predictable known future lifetime or joint lifetime stream of income. This is true, for example, whether you’re talking about a savings account, CD, bond, stock, mutual fund, or exchange traded fund.

Fortunately, there exists a long-standing, reliable, conservative investment solution that’s specifically designed to provide us with a predetermined monthly payment for the rest of our life. The payment will be made without interruption, no matter how the stock market is performing. This investment solution is commonly known as a fixed income annuity and is offered exclusively by life insurance companies.

Unlike a traditional defined benefit pension plan that pays a defined stream of income that generally doesn’t change beginning at retirement age and ending at death, a fixed income annuity strategy can be quite flexible. There are several types of fixed income annuities that can be used to customize a retirement income plan that dovetails with one’s retirement income needs. This entails both timing and amount of payment, including adjustment for inflation.

There are two broad classes of fixed income annuities that are distinguished by the timing of the commencement of the initial income payment: (a) single premium immediate and (b) deferred. A feature shared by both types of annuities is “annuitization,” or the conversion of an annuity to an irrevocable structured payment plan with a specified payout by a life insurance company to an individual(s) or “annuitant(s)” over a specified period of time through different lifetime and term certain options offered by the insurance company.

Single premium immediate annuities, or “SPIAs,” make periodic payments, typically monthly, for a specified number of months or for an individual’s lifetime or joint lifetimes as applicable. The payments generally begin one month after purchase of a SPIA, hence the name “immediate.”

The second broad class of fixed income annuities, deferred income annuities, or “DIAs,” although they play an important role in a retirement income plan, aren’t as prevalent in the marketplace as SPIAs. Like SPIAs, DIAs pay periodic income for a specified period of time or over one’s lifetime or joint lifetimes as applicable. Unlike SPIAs, the start date of the payments for DIAs is deferred for at least 13 months from the date of investment.

SPIAs and DIAs can be used alone or in combination to create a retirement paycheck. In addition, a rider, or endorsement, can be added to a fixed index annuity to generate a retirement paycheck. This retirement income planning strategy, which is striking a chord with more and more people the last few years, will be introduced in next week’s post.

By Robert Klein

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.