What is the best age to purchase an annuity?
There have been a plethora of articles and reports about unscrupulous agents who sell annuities to senior citizens who did not understand what they were buying or the contractual ramifications of their decision. Due to the publicity of many of these unfortunate events there has been a blanket statement made by many that annuities should not be purchased by any over 70….. Hogwash!
In the world of financial planning and investment advising there is a need to have safe money options regardless of age. The key relies on the fact that the financial product should provide a solution to a financial need.
**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.
Annuities by their name are designed to be income producing financial instruments. Yet, they can also be used effectively as estate planning tools. Unfortunately for senior adults insurance companies safeguard themselves from bureaucratic regulators by limiting annuity purchase ages – most companies would rather err on the side of not selling an annuity to someone approaching or exceeding eighty years old than to risk being accused of an unsuitable sale by a regulator even if the annuity would be a great benefit to the purchaser.
Why wouldn’t an eighty two year old on their own or with their families consent buy an annuity when they want safety of principal, a higher growth potential than the local bank, a 5 to 10% bonus and all of the account value to bypass probate and go directly to their heirs with no surrenders or penalties? The main reason is that senior citizens are discriminated against by overzealous regulators that in the name of protection have caused the door to be shut on this legitimate purpose for annuities in estate planning.
It should be noted that the age limiting also applies to younger individuals. We have seen insurance companies pull back on benefit eligibility for younger individuals which seem “to promise to much” based on today’s interest rate environment when these benefits are extrapolated out over a younger person’s lifetime.
So again, what is the best age…
The most common age tends to be between 45 and 65. However, it depends on the type of annuity and your planned retirement age. Our most common experience has been to start utilizing annuities in retirement planning 1-15 years prior to retirement. Annuities excel at keeping retirement dollars safe and secure while providing growth for retirement income. We often discuss with clients that they should consider annuities for their income foundation or “If they cannot afford to lose principal” or if they “do not have the time to recover from losses in riskier financial choices” — then annuities are always prudent alternative for consideration.
It seems that every month or so I see a newspaper and magazine financial writer that writes a column gets asked a question like, “I’m 70 years old and my advisor wants me to by a (fixed, variable, hybrid) annuity, should I do this?” I’m sorry, but no columnist can effectively answer that question in 300 words or less, unless his/her answer is “it depends.” It’s not uncommon for retirees to live into their 90’s – and a 70 year old with a family history of longevity may be a candidate for an annuity if they have a concern about outliving their money. It should be part of the discussion – if it fits the need.
So if I’m in my 20-40’s then I should not consider an annuity… right?
For younger individuals two key elements need to be part of the consideration when discussing if an annuity is a valid option. First, what are they giving up and at what cost? Younger clients who are disciplined enough to make regular contributions into an investment can benefit from dollar cost averaging. Also, they have the advantage of time — the longer the time before the dollars are needed the more likely they are to benefit from the volatile upside of some of the riskier investments. Second, how do they handle the loss of principal? Can they continue to invest into a financial product that may not always consistently grow? If they cannot stomach a loss then other safe money options like annuities should be part of the discussion.
Get Good Advice
In closing, we encourage you to get good advice. Find a financial professional that will listen to your needs and then work with you to find proper solutions. Ultimately it will be you who makes the decision on what to do with your dollars. Do not make decisions based upon a newspaper article or what your neighbor just did that sounds so great. Work with someone who has your goals in mind and you have a much better chance of meeting your retirement target.
Eric: Today, we’re going to talk about what is the best age to purchase an annuity. Now Dick, I see it in the newspaper all the time, “Dear Abby,” well Dear Abby isn’t quite right, but a financial columnist gets the question, “Dear, Dick; I’m 70-years-old. My financial adviser wants me to buy an annuity. Is this a good recommendation?”
Annuity Guys® Video Transcript:
Dick: Absolutely, if you’re 70-years-old, you should never buy an annuity.
Eric: Now 70 and a day, you’re okay.
Dick: Or what about 69 and a half?
Eric: Okay, that’s fine.
Dick: You know really folks; this is the problem with columnists and 300 word articles or whatever. They don’t really take your individual situation into account and where one 70-year-old buying an annuity could be completely the wrong thing, you know Eric we’ve seen that, on the other hand there are other 70-year-olds that have a unique situation, where an annuity could be the exact perfect answer for them.
Eric: Age; we hate to say age doesn’t matter, because really it comes into play in a certain aspect, but it’s all about longevity, expectations, and partly being part of your financial plan.
Dick: Right. If you want to get money over to heirs, maybe your children, you want that money to be safe. You want it to have better earning potential maybe than what the banks could give you.
Eric: Right now, that doesn’t take a whole lot.
Dick: It doesn’t take much. So there could be many of those factors. You want to avoid probate; that could be a good reason to consider an annuity for that purpose.
Eric: Exactly. So the blanket statement to say, “I’m too old for an annuity,” is not the right way of saying it. Now there are certain considerations. I would say as far as liquidity as far as what’s a sound investment, you have to trust the decisions, and that the people you’re working with are giving you good advice. If you ever don’t feel comfortable with any financial advice, get a second opinion.
Dick: And this is where I’ve had taken issue anyway, with some of the compliance regulations and the regulators, which they try to make it one rule fits all, and they don’t really take the individual into account. And I very frequently find that an older person is truly discriminated against, because they cannot choose what is best for their situation. The insurance companies are afraid to sell them an annuity or to allow them to purchase an annuity, because it could be looked at as something incorrect, even though for that person, it would be the very best thing in their situation.
Eric: Yeah, I think part of what happened; this is the historical perhaps side of it. There was a time when annuities were sold and the reflection was that, basically agents were just selling them because of a higher commission level. They were just going to sell them, no matter if they were the right fit or not.
Dick: Yeah, unscrupulous. Not doing the right thing. Taking advantage of people, and yet in every investment that we’ve known out there in the world of investments, there’s been someone that will take advantage of another person. So we have to be somewhat careful, and we can’t change the way the whole world, the investment world is set up. But because of that, I do feel that the protection rules have come down so strongly that now the insurance companies are afraid to sell or allow an older person to purchase an annuity.
Eric: And we’re not suggesting that if you have dementia that you should purchase an annuity. Basically, what we’re saying is that, if you’re of sound mind, and you’re making sound decisions and you understand how it fits.
Dick: And maybe even bringing the family into the decision. But even in the environment that we have now, if the family wants to come into the decision and help their 80-year-old mother purchase an annuity that would be a great thing for the family and for the goals and objectives of the client, they can’t do it.
Eric: Some insurance companies basically tie agent’s hands, based off of age. It depends on the company and what the age cutoff is.
Dick: Right, it seems like, when we get up around in that area of 78-80, in that neighborhood, it becomes pretty minimal what’s available.
Eric: Then of course there are people, I’m going to say in my age group that…
Dick: The much younger…
Eric: They’re also the discriminated against group that some of the benefits, I call them the richer benefits that are available on some annuities, the income riders. We’re actually too young. The benefits are actually too great.
Dick: The companies feel and I think that this should be a cue to some folks that are maybe a little bit more in that sweet spot, which I’m approaching, somewhere in that 50-year- old up to 65-years-old, that some of the **guarantees and that the companies feel are just a little bit too strong to offer to a younger person that could take advantage of that. So we do find this sweet spot to be somewhere between the ages of near 50, up to maybe a little over 65 or pushing 70, where an annuity can be positioned, either to start income immediately or defer it for up to 10 or 15 years.
Eric: I really like that. For me in my practice, those 10 years before retirement, it should be part of the discussion. Even if the decision is no, it should be part of what’s looked at as part of this.
Dick: I can’t tell you how many times, I know you’ve heard it over and over too. That someone has said, “I wish I would have known this ten years ago, five years ago, because why was I wasting my time?” Their money many times, hasn’t done any of the things that it needed to do, to be ready for where they are today, and they could have positioned it with contractual **guarantees, which is what annuities offer and at least that foundational portion of their income or their assets would have produced the income that they needed by this stage.
Eric: Well, and it takes some of the guess work out. If you take a portion of your retirement savings and you position it in a place where you know that you’re this age, your goal is to retire here, isn’t it nice to have predictability of what that income level is going to be at that point, and that is where it becomes part of the discussion.
Dick: So I think that truthfully, getting back to what we were discussing initially and that was too old or too young? I think that we would have to say that it depends on your unique situation. You’re never too old or too young, if it fits what you need.
Eric: That’s right. It has to be a solution to a financial problem and it’s a piece of the puzzle. If it fits it should be part of the consideration. So talk to your financial adviser. Find somebody that you trust and that you feel comfortable with and have the discussion.
Dick: That’s right. Thank you.