Annuities Deferred Income Annuities Fixed Index Annuities Retirement Income Planning

Sustainable Lifetime Income When You Need It – Part 2 of 2

Part 1 of this post made the point that if your goal is to receive sustainable lifetime income, in addition to Social Security, fixed income annuities offered by life insurance companies will meet your need. Please read Part 1 to learn about the three types of fixed income annuities, including each one’s income start date.

If you’re seeking total flexibility for your lifetime income start date, then a fixed index annuity (“FIA”) with an optional income rider is your best bet. Unlike single premium immediate annuities (“SPIA’s”) and deferred income annuities (“DIA’s”) where the sole purpose is to provide sustainable income, a FIA can fulfill multiple financial needs, a discussion of which is beyond the scope of this post. When you purchase a FIA, assuming your goal is sustainable lifetime income, you must purchase an optional income rider with an annual income rider fee.

Unlike the start date for SPIA’s and DIA’s which is contractually defined, it is much more flexible with FIA’s. Most FIA income riders, also known as guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefit (“GMWB”) riders, have two requirements when it comes to the income start date:

  1. You must wait at least one year after the contract is issued, and
  2. You must be at least age 50.

Assuming that you meet both requirements, the age at which you begin taking income withdrawals from a FIA is up to you. Unlike Social Security which has an eight-year window for choosing your income start date, i.e., between age 62 and 70, the start date with FIA’s is open-ended once the two requirements have been met.

Similar to Social Security, the longer you defer your start date, the greater your lifetime income payments will be. Unlike Social Security where your benefit amount will increase 7% – 8% each year that you defer your start date, the amount of increase is defined by the income rider provision of each FIA’s contract. Also, unlike Social Security, the percentage increase is generally significantly greater when you cross five-year milestones, e.g., age 60, 65, 70, 75, etc.

Here’s an example from a recent case for one of my clients who are currently in their early to mid 50’s and have invested approximately $250,000 in a FIA with an income rider. If they begin taking income at the younger spouse’s age 63, they will receive annual lifetime income of $20,479. At age 64, the amount increases 6% to $21,708. If they wait until age 65, it increases 19.3% from their age 64 amount to $25,886.

With a FIA with an income rider, in addition to having the security of receiving sustainable lifetime income, you have the luxury of starting your income when you need it. This is in addition to several other benefits offered by FIA’s, a discussion of which has been presented in various Retirement Income Visions™ posts.

Fixed Index Annuities Retirement Income Planning

Cap Rates Are Secondary When Optimizing Retirement Income

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.