Is comparing annuities to investment choices a mistake? A recent Market Watch article stated that was just one of the three major errors made by both financial professionals and consumers when evaluating annuities.
Eric and Dick examine comparing annuities to investments in this weeks video review.
**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.
Three annuity mistakes to avoid
What not to do when evaluating annuities for retirement
If you’re comparing annuities to other investment products, you’re making a classic mistake—and it’s just one of three major errors that consumers and financial experts make when evaluating annuities, according to a panel of experts at a recent MarketWatch Retirement Adviser event in New York that focused on income strategies.
“Both immediate and deferred annuities have been shown to have a very positive role in an overall retirement-income strategy, but the deployment of these instruments is often hampered by some very fundamental misunderstandings,” said John Olsen, president of Olsen Financial Group, and author of a number of books on annuities, including “Index Annuities: A Suitable Approach.”
The panel, moderated by MarketWatch senior columnist Robert Powell, also featured Farrell Dolan, principal with Farrell Dolan Associates, and David Blanchett, head of retirement research at Morningstar Investment Management.
Mistake No. 1: Unfair comparisons
One such misunderstanding—and it’s often made by financial experts, Olsen said—is to assess the value of a variable deferred annuity as though all of its costs “are nothing but pure overhead.” That can lead consumers to view such annuities as unreasonably expensive. [Read More…]
Annuity Guys® Video Transcript:
Eric: Today we are going to talk about whether it is unfair or fair to compare annuities to investments.
Dick: Eric, I think that it’s the hardest thing in the world for all of us to stay off of comparing annuities to investments, and I think it is unrealistic to think that we would do any comparison; however, I think that’s where we get in trouble.
Eric: It’s the expectations game. So often when people come to us, they’ve been conditioned to talk about return, whether it be from a mutual fund^, savings account, whatever. Everything’s about return. What’s the return?
Dick: They spent their whole life accumulating this money so their focus has always been on that.
Eric: They are trying to figure out how can I get the biggest return rather than mitigating the risk necessarily with an annuity to get the biggest return in dollars, rather than return in rate.
Dick: What inspired us this week, reading this article by Andrea Combs that really gets into some of the things that we talk about on a regular basis; and that is why do we buy? Why do we choose annuities? There’s contractual **guarantees, there is cash flow, and that is what she really gets into, that there’s this transition that we go through that cash flow becomes king. Longevity of knowing that we’ve got money, no matter how long we live, and there is a third aspect which is maybe a little bit more parallel to investment, that is where you require secure level of growth, contractual **guarantees.
Eric: I like the idea of just saying it transfers the risk from me, as the investor or individual, to the insurance company. They are going to take care of doling out my allowance each month, hopefully, and that’s the income stream that I have confidence in. They’re insuring my future income stream, is how I look at it.
Dick: Past wisdom from the investment world has been that if we draw our portfolio down by a certain level, say 4%, 4½, 3½%, everybody’s got their own view of it, that somehow we can continue to do that and be invested. The last decade has shown us that that really can’t be relied upon.
Eric: In an era of 5% CDs, it’s easy to say, “I can pull of my 5% and never touch my principle.” If you looked today, if you can find a 5% CD . . .
Dick: It’s not there.
Eric: I could sell a few of those, if I could find a 5% CD. That world no longer exists, that safety, security aspect of getting those returns, necessarily. This is where if you need those returns that are a larger withdrawal than just pulling out your principle, and a lot of people do today, this is where annuity comes into play.
Dick: I was just going to say, again, talking about not being focused on the return. Unfortunately so many times folks, annuities are sold based on comparing them to investments, and especially the indexed annuity or the hybrid annuity where it’s stated that you’ve got upside potential to a downside risk; there is truth to that. The upside potential is pretty minimal, and the idea that it has outperformed certain investments, certain indexes, S&P 500 over certain time periods in history, it was ever intended to do that.
Eric: It’s not what they’re geared for. We’ve talked about it in the previous videos, in order for you to be happy, you look at the **guarantees. If you can be happy with what the **guarantees are offered through an annuity, then anything that you get above that . . .
Dick: It’s a pleasant surprise. It’s good news. You’ll never be surprised by an annuity by it going the wrong way. I have to qualify that a little bit. We’re talking more about fixed annuities here and not as much about variable annuity#. Because a variable annuity# is an investment, and yet, it does have some **guarantees.
Eric: It can have some **guarantees.
Dick: It can have, so there is some aspect about that that you have to say, “Maybe for some people, a variable annuity# may fit,” but again that’s a whole different discussion.
Eric: Sure. In her last point, she talks about annuitization, which is a really interesting aspect. We’ve talked a lot about hybrid annuities and the fact that you don’t have to annuitize necessarily, to get the same benefit that you would from annuitization. Her focus is on the stream that’s provided from an annuity.
Dick: For all practical purposes, we’ll just assume that her annuitization would also mean turning on income for life; a different terminology. We do find that with clients that . . . what would I call it, Eric? The depression mentality, where we can live off less so we’re going to, and yet, they’ve set this annuity up so that we can turn it on and turn on this income at a certain point of time and relax, enjoy what we have, and know we will never outlive our money. Yet we have these clients who have a tendency to hold back from that.
Eric: I think nobody wants to give up their principle. You worked hard and earned these dollars, nobody likes the idea of just . . .
Dick: Spending it.
Eric: You give it all to the insurance company and you get that allowance. That’s what really annuitization really is; it protects you on the income side. The income rider on these hybrid annuities does something very similar in a sense: Guaranteed income for life, but still allows you to get access. If anything is leftover, that can go on to your heirs. That’s, I think, the aspect about that type of annuity that’s really popular.
Dick: I think it helps people who wouldn’t normally annuitize to go ahead and take their income stream, because they know that they still have some access to the account value.
Eric: I think it’s really one of the things that we are finding really attractive right now because it does allow that flexibility. For people that are used to this return mentality that we’ve talked about, they still have that opportunity to hold on to those dollars a little bit. Not necessarily get the best return, but to get that income stream, have that safety/security.
Dick: Eric, when we talk about comparing annuities to investments, what’s the balance?
Eric: You have to look at the diversification. For me, when you’re looking at those two things, you have to look at protecting the foundation, and that’s where an annuity comes in. After that, hopefully investments can play a part in controlling for inflation and being out there.
Dick: Maybe a healthy way to compare annuities to investments would be in your own portfolio, in terms of what proportion of your portfolio do you want in security and safety for that income foundation or death benefit-type foundation as compared to what portion are you willing to put at risk?
Eric: Exactly. It’s to protect the foundation. How do you want to protect it? Are you comfortable protecting it in the headwinds that we have going on, or would you rather protect it with a rock-solid foundation?
Dick: I agree. Thank you, folks.
Eric: Thanks for tuning in today.