Should annuity buyers be giddy because they can own an annuity with no limiting upside cap and of market loss? Well, maybe, since we are now in the new annuity era of the low volatility index.
If you are a prospective annuity buyer you should consider this new strategy for good reason. First and foremost, these are uncapped indexes with seemingly unlimited upside potential; however, before any irrational exuberance kicks in… [continued below video]
Video: Annuity Guys Dick and Eric discuss the pros and cons of the new low volatility indexes.
Guarantees, including optional benefits, are backed by the claims-paying ability of the issuer, and may contain limitations, including surrender charges, which may affect policy values. During this segment, Dick and Eric are referring to Fixed Annuities unless otherwise specified.
and you sign the next annuity contract you see, please understand that each of these volatility control indexes does have some limiting factors. One such limiting factor used to increase upside potential is the result of a mathematical formula that works similar to a tactically managed investment account that moves in and out of market allocations based upon predetermined triggers. For example: in times of higher volatility these indexes will often move more toward a safe money strategy of weighting more of the index in a cash or bond position. Conversely, when the volatility is low the index will be weighted more toward the equities side.
Another limiting factor of these uncapped indexes is the ability for the insurance company to apply a standard fee or a spread charge. The spread charge/fee is the most common cost associated with these uncapped indexes. It allows the insurance company to take the first few percentage points of growth (typically 2-4%) and then credit your account with everything above that amount. For example: if the spread is 2.0% and the index gains 8.0%, your account will be credited 6.0%. What makes these spread fees more attractive than other charges? If the index has a down or negative year, there is no charge or cost to your account. Just to be clear, with all fixed index annuities your principal is protected and if the index finishes negative, your account will be credited at 0% – it will never reduce your account balance.
Not all of these uncapped indexes were created the same – some are easier to track and have ticker symbols and locations you can find online. Others appear to have been created just for the insurance company and the only research available on them is available through the insurance companies brochures.
Perhaps the biggest warning we can share with these uncapped volatility indexes is the need for realistic expectations. We have seen the historical numbers showing annual gains of 15-20% and they look wonderful, but don’t be wowed by the outlying numbers. Realize that these indexes were designed to provide modest gains that should allow you to share in a portion of the success of the index in the good years while protecting you from losses in the bad years. If you enter an annuity contract expecting stock market type returns, you will likely be disappointed.
This strategy is the current “rage” in the industry. It seems like every insurance company has released a new annuity or a new indexing strategy which utilizes an uncapped low volatility index. So you need to understand how these newer indexes work and if this strategy fits your risk profile.
As annuity guys, we appreciate this innovation and this strategy because it is easier for most clients to understand and grasp than explaining participation rates and index cap limits.