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Annuities Explained | What Is An Annuity?

November 30, 202315 min read

This article is a written representation of the video available on our LIFE180 YouTube channel.

Annuities stand out as formidable financial tools in the realm of financial and retirement planning. When you delve into online resources about annuities, you'll encounter a diverse range of products and an abundance of opinions on their applications. In this article, I aim to demystify annuities by focusing on the two most prevalent types that effectively address common issues.

I will outline the prime scenarios where annuities prove most beneficial and share my approach to guiding clients in strategically leveraging annuities to tackle various challenges in their financial journey. If you haven't done so yet, be sure to subscribe and hit the bell on my LIFE180 YouTube channel for timely notifications whenever I release new content.

Two most common annuities

Let's delve into the realm of annuities, specifically focusing on two prominent types: Single Premium Immediate Annuities (SPIAs) and Fixed Index Annuities (FIAs). These financial instruments play pivotal roles in addressing various concerns and challenges that individuals encounter in their financial journeys.

Starting with SPIAs, these annuities provide a straightforward solution by allowing individuals to convert a lump sum of money into a guaranteed stream of income for a specified period or even for the rest of their lives. This can be particularly advantageous for retirees seeking a reliable income source, offering financial stability during their post-employment years.

On the other hand, FIAs present a unique blend of market participation and downside protection. With FIAs, individuals can potentially benefit from market gains through an indexed approach while having a safeguard against market downturns, making them an appealing option for those seeking growth with a level of risk mitigation. By exploring these two prevalent annuity types, individuals can better understand their applicability in addressing diverse financial needs and challenges.

SPIAs (Single Premium Immediate Annuities)

The SPIA, or Single Premium Immediate Annuity, is precisely what its name suggests. It offers the flexibility to deposit a lump sum of money into an account, providing an immediate source of income. When considering the renowned 4% rule in retirement planning, this annuity aligns well with the principle. The 4% rule suggests that, if appropriately managed, you can safely withdraw 4% of your retirement portfolio annually without a significant risk of depleting your funds during your lifetime, as indicated by the Monte Carlo test. For instance, with a million-dollar portfolio, adhering to the 4% rule would allow for a $40,000 annual income, ensuring a balance between sustaining your lifestyle and preserving your financial security in retirement.

The great part about SPIAs is if you are an older individual and you're looking to figure out, how do I leverage my money? How can I take this chunk of money? Maybe you have $200,000, maybe you're 70 or 75 years old, and you're not worried about how much money you have, you're just saying, hey, I'm maybe running out of money and I wanna make sure I can leverage this and get as much runway out of this as possible for the rest of my life.

A SPIA operates on a unique principle: as you age, the annual returns it offers increase. Managed by life insurance companies, annuities, like life insurance, are backed by insurance. The inherent risk for an insurance company in life insurance is that the policyholder might pass away prematurely, but with annuities, the risk shifts to the possibility that the annuitant lives longer than expected.

In this scenario, the insurance company bears more risk as they guarantee a specific percentage of income for life, and the longer the annuitant lives, the greater the exposure for the insurance company. This distinctive mechanism aligns with the annuitant's longevity and ensures a steady income stream as they age.

Mortality credits

Annuities, particularly SPIAs (Single Premium Immediate Annuities), offer a unique advantage known as mortality credit. Mortality credits are a significant aspect of all annuities, with SPIAs standing out as leaders in harnessing this concept. To break it down simply, let's imagine five individuals each contributing $100,000 to a pool, resulting in a total of $500,000. SPIAs work by not only providing a rate of return, such as the 4% rule, but also incorporating mortality credits. This is where the age factor comes into play – recognizing that among these five individuals, the likelihood of someone passing away sooner than the others is high due to age differences.

As these mortality events occur, such as the fifth person passing away first and the fourth person second, the remaining pool of money and its returns are redistributed among fewer individuals. Although real scenarios involve much larger pools and more complex calculations for insurance companies, this process allows them to efficiently turn a 4% return into a 7% return annually. Mortality credits thus serve as an insurance-backed mechanism, enhancing the overall efficiency of the invested money.

The focal point here is to shift the concern from the total sum of $200,000 in a SPIA to the strategy of maximizing the rate of return for the entirety of your life. In this context, suppose you decide to invest in a SPIA at 70 years old, and it generates a guaranteed annual income of $14,000 for the rest of your life. The critical insight is not fixating on the exact amount of $200,000 but rather understanding how to leverage it effectively. This underscores the importance of devising a plan to optimize your financial returns and security throughout your lifetime.

If you opt for a SPIA at 75 years old, the potential income will increase, possibly reaching $18,000 per year or even more. It's crucial to analyze the specific figures because they are dynamic and subject to change. The purpose of presenting this concept is not to provide precise numerical values in this article. Instead, the emphasis is on grasping the idea that the numbers fluctuate, and the key lies in comprehending the underlying principles of how a SPIA operates within different scenarios. The intention is to equip you with the knowledge to interpret and adapt to these variations in a way that aligns with your financial goals.

The primary objective of this article is to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of how Single Premium Immediate Annuities (SPIAs) function. By delving into the intricacies of mortality credits and the general fund return that insurance companies support, you can gain insight into the mechanisms behind a guaranteed rate on your income. Recognizing the interplay of these factors is crucial for informed decision-making when considering SPIAs.

This knowledge empowers you to navigate the complexities of annuity options and make sound financial choices aligned with your objectives. Understanding the dynamics of SPIAs, including mortality credits and fund returns, enhances your ability to leverage these financial tools effectively for a more secure financial future.

FIAs (Fixed Index Annuities)

Regarding FIAs, which stands for Fixed Index Annuities, these are currently the most prevalent annuity type in the market. Without a doubt, FIAs are reigning as the kings of the annuity industry. Their prominence is attributed to their remarkable problem-solving capabilities and unparalleled creativity in addressing a variety of financial challenges.

FIAs take the lead in providing a diverse array of benefits, showcasing their versatility and flexibility in design. The wide range of options, including the addition of various riders, allows for a tailored approach to meet individual needs and preferences.

I'm going to guide you through a case study to elucidate the purpose of a Fixed Index Annuity (FIA). There are two compelling reasons why you might consider investing in a Fixed Index Annuity and allocating your funds to this financial instrument.

The primary and foremost reason is income and principal protection. To elaborate, this entails constructing your personalized pension plan. It's akin to having income insurance, offering a safeguard for your financial well-being. Additionally, you might want to shield the principal amount of your money. Opting for an asset that offers both these options becomes crucial, and Fixed Index Annuities (FIAs) serve as a viable choice without entailing the risk of being locked into it. Allow me to illustrate this with an example.

The other reason is maybe you are in your late 40s early 50s and you're looking to accumulate money on a safe basis, maybe you had a 401k, maybe have an IRA. Really common in the 401k world to roll it over and try to put it into safe money that's going to get you good returns. It's going to be bond-like returns with some other potential to move it out of the bond-like returns and focus on income planning once you get closer to retirement. That is another way that is really, really common for people to do it.

Now what is the purpose of this? When we're talking about income, I believe that the best use case, and this is just how I see as the best scenarios and where I find like the lowest hanging fruit on the problems that annuities solve for people, the best way is for income planning and utilizing them because we talk about a lot of the fact that a lot of Americans right now are behind the eight ball when it comes to retirement planning.

The second reason may be applicable if you find yourself in your late 40s or early 50s, aiming to accumulate funds securely. This situation often arises if you possess a 401k or an IRA. In the realm of 401k management, it's quite prevalent to consider rolling it over and placing it in a secure investment that promises favorable returns. This typically involves returns akin to bonds, with the added potential to transition away from bond-like returns and concentrate on income planning as retirement approaches.

This approach is widely adopted and serves as a common strategy for individuals in this age bracket. Now, why is this strategy beneficial? When we delve into the realm of income planning, I perceive it as the most effective use case. This perspective stems from identifying scenarios where annuities address fundamental challenges for individuals, particularly considering the prevalent situation where many Americans are lagging behind in their retirement planning.

As we discussed earlier with Single Premium Immediate Annuities (SPIAs), the ability to leverage and secure a higher rate of return on a guaranteed basis is a pivotal element for success. It's crucial to emphasize that, in retirement, the primary concern is not the total amount of money amassed but the continuity of cash flow. Retirement signifies the end of a regular paycheck, prompting a shift in focus toward maintaining consistent cash flow, mirroring the familiar structure of monthly paychecks.

Therefore, the objective is not merely reaching retirement with a million dollars but understanding what this sum translates to in terms of guaranteed cash flow. The central goal is to strategize how to ensure that this accumulated wealth lasts on a guaranteed basis throughout one's lifetime. This principle aligns with the insights shared by Tom Hegna in his book, "Paychecks and Playchecks."

In retirement, the dynamics of daily life shift, resembling an extended weekend where leisure and enjoyment take center stage. Considering that weekends often witness increased spending, it prompts the need for what Tom Hegna terms "playchecks" in retirement. Annuity planning, in this context, diverges from a fixation on the million-dollar figure, focusing instead on optimizing how this wealth can generate the highest cash flow. The primary objective is to replace the regular paycheck, ensuring that one's lifestyle, daily expenses, and bills are adequately covered.

By securing this financial structure, individuals can experience a sense of peace of mind, potentially contributing to a longer and healthier life by alleviating stress associated with financial uncertainties. Longevity risk and market fluctuations are inherent concerns in retirement, making annuities, with their guarantees, a powerful tool to navigate and mitigate these challenges. Beyond meeting basic needs, the surplus funds can be designated as "playchecks," facilitating and enhancing one's chosen lifestyle in retirement.

Leveraging Fixed Indexed Annuities for Strategic Retirement Income Planning

 

Let's explore why we value annuities in this context and why I firmly believe that annuities are the essential tool for optimizing a retirement planning portfolio. If you opt not to include annuities, you miss out on mortality credits, guarantees, and the peace of mind that life insurance companies can provide.

Let's delve into an example involving bonuses in these annuities. What does that entail? You can receive a bonus ranging from 15% to 30% on an annuity when you initially invest. This bonus serves income planning purposes, providing you with an immediate boost of 15% to 30% as soon as the funds are deposited. Following that, you'll enjoy guaranteed income and roll-ups, typically ranging between 6% and 7% on a compounding basis or 9% on a simple basis, as of the current moment. It's important to note that these figures are based on individuals aged 65 to 70 when considering the utilization of income riders on these annuities. To illustrate the impact of these features, let's explore a case study.

Consider a scenario involving a 60-year-old individual with $200,000, and let's assume a 20% bonus is applied to this annuity specifically for income planning purposes. What does this mean? Instantaneously, on day one, that $200,000 transforms into $240,000. This presents a fantastic opportunity to leverage your funds effectively. If you're not immediately utilizing that money at the age of 60, it's like having a free $40,000 deposited into your account solely for income planning purposes.

Next, they offer a 7% roll-up, a guaranteed compounding rate, or a 9% simple rate, allowing you to choose between these options. The preference for a 7% compounding rate is emphasized, considering the long-term accumulation and compounding over a 10-year period. Following this strategy, the $200,000 initially deposited grows to $475,000 by year 10, showcasing a remarkable nearly 150% rate of return on a guaranteed basis. This strategy aligns well with the 4% rule, allowing you to lock in a 140% guaranteed return, and at 70 years old, the insurance company assures a 7% return, resulting in approximately $33,000 in guaranteed income perpetually.

Optimizing Retirement Income: The Vital Role of Annuities in Financial Planning

In the realm of retirement planning, a prevalent scenario involves individuals aged 55 to 60 with a 401k and a financial dilemma about what to do with it. Many find themselves with a couple of hundred thousand dollars, pondering their best course of action. While acknowledging that this approach might not suit everyone, it becomes relevant for those who feel they're slightly lagging in their financial plans and require a form of safe leverage.

The inherent risk lies in relinquishing control over one's money, constituting a unique form of leverage with its own opportunity cost. However, the compelling benefits include the guarantees offered, exemplified by the 20% bonus, 7% roll-up, and 7% income distribution. This strategy allows someone with $200,000 to potentially secure $33,000 annually in income after a decade, presenting an immensely powerful and leveraged solution for financial planning.

Because remember, it doesn't matter how much money you have right now or even in retirement, what matters is what that money is going to do for you when you're in retirement.

Certainly, when considering the potential of achieving financial goals in retirement, the integration of various income sources becomes crucial. The income generated from the annuity, exemplified by the guaranteed $33,000 annually, serves as a foundational component. However, it's imperative to recognize that this is just one piece of the broader financial puzzle. By amalgamating this guaranteed income with other strategic investments and income streams, individuals can holistically address their financial needs in retirement.

This multifaceted approach ensures not only the coverage of essential expenses but also the preservation of one's desired lifestyle. In aligning with the principles outlined in "Paychecks and Playchecks" by Tom Hegna, the emphasis is placed on securing a reliable income source to sustain a fulfilling lifestyle throughout retirement. The use of annuities in this context serves as a safe and secure leveraged strategy, providing a foundation for financial stability and peace of mind.

Absolutely, when contemplating retirement planning, the optimization of one's portfolio requires a tailored approach based on individual circumstances. For those with a more substantial portfolio, such as a couple million dollars, the strategy shifts toward creating a personalized pension to cover essential expenses and lifestyle.

By applying the principles elucidated earlier, a portion of the portfolio, let's say $800,000, can be strategically allocated to secure guaranteed income, ensuring financial stability for the remainder of one's life. This approach allows for meticulous planning, where the remaining funds, in this case, $1.2 million, can be strategically optimized for various purposes.

The surplus funds can be directed towards endeavors such as charitable giving, legacy planning, or venturing into higher-risk opportunities to potentially amplify the portfolio. This bifurcation of the portfolio serves to simultaneously secure a stable financial foundation and provide the flexibility to pursue diverse financial goals. Ultimately, the aim is to strike a balance between ensuring a secure and guaranteed income stream for essential needs and leveraging the remaining assets to explore growth opportunities or philanthropic ventures.

Indeed, retirement planning involves a myriad of strategies, yet a fundamental principle remains constant: securing one's essential needs on a guaranteed basis is paramount. This foundational step involves allocating a specific percentage of one's net worth or retirement assets to ensure a stable and predictable income stream for life. By prioritizing the assurance of meeting basic needs, individuals can establish a financial foundation that safeguards their lifestyle throughout retirement.

Once the essential needs are securely met through this approach, individuals gain the flexibility to explore additional creative and strategic investment strategies. However, the critical point lies in recognizing the significance of meeting these foundational needs first. The unparalleled advantage of utilizing safe leverage, achieving better returns with each invested dollar, and ensuring predictability sets certain assets, particularly those within the scope of annuities, apart in the realm of retirement planning. The guaranteed nature of these assets makes them stand out as a reliable means of optimizing and meeting essential needs in a way that few other investments can match.

So, if you have any questions about that, go ahead and reach out. Go ahead in the comment section below. There's a link down here to set up a clarity call. Any questions at all, comment. I do my best to respond to every single comment. Hopefully you found value in this. Till next time, have a blessed, inspirational day. 

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Chris Kirkpatrick

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