Dick and Eric take a look at the Wharton study and what it means for anyone considering a fixed index annuity as the chassis for the hybrid annuity.
**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.
In 2010 the Wharton Financial Institutions Center updated their published study on the empirical performance of fixed index annuities based upon the products offered and the actual interest credited. What Jack Marrion, Geoffrey VanderPal and David Babbel found was ground breaking and eye opening for many in the financial world.
Their findings dismissed most of the previous studies concerning fixed index annuities due to erroneous findings based upon hypothetical data and non-valid assumptions. What the Wharton Study found was that during specific time periods fixed index annuities actually performed competitively with alternative portfolios of stocks and bonds.
Index annuities were originally introduced in the United States approximately twenty years ago as an alternative to mutual fund^s. These annuities allow their holders to participate in growth from stock market indexes, yet prevent the risk of loss to the annuity owner’s principal in years when these popular indices produce a loss. This type of annuity has produced much higher annuity rates or interest crediting than traditional fixed annuities.
Due to this feature, money flowed very quickly into these types of annuities during the Great Recession of 2008-2009. In fact, according to LIMRA over 30 billion dollars flowed into fixed index annuities during both 2010 & 2011 and now represent 41 percent of fixed annuities sold annually (LIMRA, 2-16-12).
Why would money flow into financial instruments in such a volatile environment? Fixed index annuities during their history have actually performed competitively and even outperformed popular market indexes during period of high volatility.
To quote the Wharton study, “How will index annuities perform in the future? We do not know but the concept has proven to work in the past and any articles should reflect this. FIAs were not designed to be direct competitors of index investing nor have FIAs been promoted to provide returns to compete with equity mutual fund^s or ETFs. The FIA is designed for safety of principal with returns linked to upside market performance.”
Annuity Guys® Video Transcript:
DICK: You know we’re here today to talk about the Wharton Study and Eric, before we get into the Wharton Study here and I know this kind of ties into it, but let’s just talk about fixed index annuities, which is what the Wharton Study is about. Let’s talk about the popularity of fixed index annuities in recent years.
ERIC: Well, it comes into why did we decide on this topic today? Just recently LIMRA came out and gave us some of the tallies from 2011 about what the most popular annuities and the flavors of annuities that were out there, were and of the fixed annuity chassis, so to speak, of that flavor indexed annuities amounted for 44% of the sales in the fixed annuity chassis world, which was over $30 billion, about $32 billion in sales of fixed index annuities.
DICK: And that’s been going on for the last couple of years.
ERIC: Yes, they’ve been increasing popular ever since they kind of came into existence in 1995. They’ve kind of gradually built, built, built and now they’re pretty consistent at being over $30 million in sales.
DICK: Yep, which is very good, and one thing I’d like to do is maybe tie that back into the Wharton Study, which we were talking about. We’ve got up on the board and he’s sitting in front of us. The Wharton Study folks, if you haven’t read it yet, it’s available in our annuity reviews blog, so you can get the link there.
But you might find it to be good reading, because it actually takes what was just assumptions that were maybe based on erroneous types of assumptions and actually brings it down to real data, so that we can actually look at fixed annuities and compare it even to the popular indexes like the S&P 500, and just see how it really performed.
ERIC: Well, and I like some of the fascinating statistics they toss in there. They look at indexed annuities being part of an index and one of the things they analyze and they break down is the Russell 3000, and I just find that index comparison fascinating, because they say the Russell 3000 takes into account 98% of the stocks that are out there. They said that when they looked at their analysis between 1983 and 2006, that has 98%t of the stocks, publicly held in that index.
ERIC: Of that and this is the fascinating statistics for me, 40% of those stocks had a negative return during that time period, 20% lost all their value, while about 10% gained over about 500%. So and what their determination was, when they said you’re better off picking the index because you’re going to cover all those bases. You’re either going to get those big returns, and if you’re picking individual stocks…
DICK: Well, you could be on either side. And the chances are much more likely to be on the downside.
ERIC: You can hit the home run or you can hit the strikeout, and you’re back on the bench.
DICK: Right, let’s talk about the last decade or so, 10-12 years. What we call the lost decade, and how did fixed indexed annuities; I’m asking a rhetorical question here; but how did fixed indexed annuities compare to let’s say, the S&P 500 during that let’s say the first decade of the 21st century?
ERIC: If you take the decade as a whole, you know, everyone kind of looks at the 2000 to 2010, you know the S&P was basically flat.
DICK: Right, we call it the lost decade.
ERIC: There was nothing there, but if you were in the indexed world you got good returns.
DICK: And when we’re saying the indexed world, we’re talking about fixed indexed annuity world.
ERIC: Right, in this case we’re talking about it from an indexing standpoint, because of how indexing works, you get the gains and then you lock them in. Get the gains. Lock them in. Now when the losses come, you’re locked in so you don’t take that that bad.
That’s what we call zero is your hero. We’ve kind of talked about that a couple times and that’s where this comes in and it points out, the Wharton Study points out that, because you’re not having those big drops, you’re returns over a period of time, were actually pretty good. Are we predicting future performance with this kind of study?
DICK: It’s going to outperform the market in a good market? I would say no. But on the other hand, I’ve had a lot of folks that have actually sat down and we’ve talked about that difficult time like with the S&P and the major indexes. When we look at the fixed indexed annuity and we look at several of the different annuities that have performed during that time and it’s more now in the Wharton Study, is that they also outperformed those indexes.
The reason they could do it is, just what you were explaining and that is because when the index drops dramatically with a fixed indexed annuity that actually locks in all the gains that it’s had. It might just have a zero; no increase in that particular year, but now it’s locked in at a new low. So what happens the next year? The market goes up. Maybe the market doesn’t go up enough to make up all that it lost, but any gain that it has a portion of that goes to the fixed indexed annuity.
ERIC: Right, so you’re interest in crediting, coming off of a bad year is a good thing.
DICK: Is a good thing, right. So that in essence that allows it in extreme volatility or flat or down to actually produce a real return, where the market can’t produce a return, but the fixed indexed annuity can. Let’s talk a little bit about the way that a fixed indexed annuity actually is able to accomplish this. I mean a little bit of the inner workings, the mechanics of it.
ERIC: I’m not a brain surgeon, but I can tell you that they utilize options, put options, and call options.
DICK: Well, call options is what they’re using.
ERIC: Primarily, to basically buy pennies on the dollar. You’re buying the indexed, the strategies of the indexing, so you’re buying pennies on the dollar and if you get the gains, you get big returns and if you get losses, they expire or basically become worthless.
DICK: Right, exactly. They allow the options to expire for pennies on the dollar and these large companies are in a position to have the type of financial management, to continue to manage money in this way. And let me also take this in the other sense of the safety of the annuity.
The actual premium that’s put into the annuity is fully **guaranteed, in the sense that it’s invested in treasuries, investment grade bonds, very high-quality investment instruments, so that it can **guarantee that the principal will be safe, and that there’ll be a minimum return. It’s **guaranteed by fixed indexed annuity company, even if the market doesn’t perform or the call options don’t perform.
ERIC: They’re using the power of leverage. I mean it really is that way, that’s how they’re making those dollars and bringing those returns, those interest crediting back to you.
DICK: And now we do know that the fixed indexed annuity performed very well during what we call the lost decade, and actually outperformed many of the indexes that it was being used to measure against. I can see why that drove a lot of business into the fixed indexed annuity market. Now as of late, of the last couple of years what we’ve experienced has been lower caps, and yet fixed indexed annuities have continued to sell like crazy. People have continued to pour money into these, to the tune of $30 billion, last year $32 billion.
ERIC: And I will tell you it’s just another safe money alternative, when you compare it to money market accounts, CD account, but your opportunity for growth, we never thought 3.0% sounded like a slam dunk, but 3.0% is a great return, when your CDs are paying a .50%, your money markets are paying a .75%. Three percent, all you need is one good year to get you a 3.0% return, and it kicks the butt of anything that you had from the bank.
DICK: Well, and then we come into this whole hybrid annuity concept, where it uses the fixed indexed annuity chassis and then it has this innovative income rider on it that **guarantees 8.0% compounding. Because what we find, Eric in our practice, is that many of our clients actually need income.
ERIC: Right. We should say that the 8.0% is not on every annuity rider.
DICK: Yeah, well, 7.0-8.0%, some of them the lowest are 6.0% on some of them.
ERIC: The riders out there in deferral are what you can use to **guarantee income and that is a huge predictability for retirement income, and so when people are looking at a fixed indexed annuity and then taking in that additional rider option, it becomes a very powerful thing and even compounds what they found in the Wharton Study.
DICK: Right, right and I do believe from everything that I read and see and hear that, as we have more and more baby boomers they’re coming into retirement and they have to have answers for secure income. What we would call a pension style foundation to the portfolio that annuities are going to continue to be a viable answer in that area.
ERIC: We’re seeing more and more endorsements. We’re seeing them endorsed by the government, endorsed by people like ourselves, who are retirement planners, and basically becoming a large portion of what you should utilize, perhaps as part of your retirement.
DICK: As a portion of your portfolio. Well, I think that we’ve covered the Wharton Study in the sense of the general idea of what it’s about and really want to encourage you to check it out.
ERIC: Check it out. Yeah, check it out online. We’re more than happy to put a link out there on our site, so take a look.
DICK: Thank you.