Categories: Insurance Guide

Fixed Annuity – A Contract Between You And Your Insurance Company

An annuity is a contract between you and an insurance company in which the company agrees to pay you regular payments, either immediately or at a later date. An annuity can be purchased with a single payment or a series of payments known as premiums.

What is a fixed annuity?

The insurance company guarantees both the rate of return (interest rate) and the payout to the investor with a fixed annuity. The interest rate on a fixed annuity can change over time, despite the label “fixed” suggesting otherwise. If, how, and when this can happen, it will be specified in the contract. The interest rate is frequently established for a period of time and then adjusted periodically based on current rates. You can choose to receive payments for the rest of your life or for a specific length of time.

A fixed annuity is a popular option for investors who seek a guaranteed income stream to supplement their other investment and retirement income because of its predictability. Because fixed annuity payouts are unaffected by market changes, they can give investors peace of mind that they will have enough money to last them into retirement and cover identified future expenses.

Things to consider

While a fixed annuity can reduce market risk, there are other factors to consider when evaluating whether or not a fixed annuity is right for you.

  • The “guarantee” of an annuity is only as good as the insurance company that issues it. In the event that an insurance company fails, state guarantees may exist, but annuities are not guaranteed by the FDIC, SIPC, or any other federal agency if the insurance firm that issued the contract fails.
  • Because fixed annuity payments do not normally include cost-of-living adjustments to keep up with inflation, the value of the money you receive in payments may decrease over time. Inflation-protected annuities are available, but they are much more expensive in general.
  • Once you’ve paid the insurance company your premium, it may be difficult to get your money back. The insurance company may not be compelled to continue payments to your spouse or reimburse your premiums to your estate if you only receive a few payments under a fixed annuity contract.
  • If your fixed annuity is changed and you want to withdraw your money early, you may be subject to surrender charges, which reduce your returns.

Fixed annuity regulation

State insurance commissioners oversee fixed annuities. Check with them to make sure your insurance broker is licensed to sell insurance in your state, and see whether your state has a guaranty association that can provide some protection if an insurance company doing business in your state fails.

What are the benefits of fixed annuity?

  • Tax deferral

You can profit from compounded growth thanks to its tax-deferred status.

  • Principal and interest protection

It has a low investment risk but nevertheless allows you to grow your money at a set interest rate. The rates are typically higher than those offered by ordinary savings accounts.

  • No market risk

It provides fixed interest rates that are not affected by market changes.

  • Flexibility

If you choose to annuitize your contract for lifelong income, you have the option of setting payments for a specific period or receiving a lifetime stream of income.

  • Lower investment minimums

They normally just require an initial investment of $1,000 to $10,000.

  • Beneficiary protection

You can leave assets to beneficiaries without having to go through the costly process of probate. Optional riders, which can be purchased for an additional fee, might increase the price.

Principal and interest protection

  • Higher interest rates

The interest rates are generally higher than with traditional savings vehicles.

What should you consider before purchasing fixed annuity?

  • Less opportunity for growth

When compared to variable annuities, the chance for development is low without market participation, but there is also less danger.

  • Inconsistent rates

Some pricing may be available for a limited time and then drop after that time. Interest rates may not be able to keep pace with inflation. You may lose purchasing power if this occurs.

There are fewer opportunities for advancement.

How does a fixed annuity work?

A fixed annuity is a form of annuity contract that guarantees a return on contributions made in one lump amount or over a specific time period.

The period during which you make payments to a fixed annuity is known as the accumulation phase, and the period during which you withdraw money is known as the distribution phase. Insurance companies, banks, broker-dealers, and other financial services firms sell fixed annuity contracts.

You can select between receiving guaranteed payments for a certain number of years or a lump sum payout with a fixed annuity. The duration of guaranteed payments is constrained by the contract’s provisions. You may be paid for a specific number of years or for the rest of your life.

Deferred annuity vs Immediate annuity

Depending on how you fund the contract and when you start receiving payments, a fixed annuity can be arranged as a deferred annuity or an instant annuity.

Payments on a deferred annuity do not begin for at least one year after purchase. It usually has a lengthier accumulation period because you must make a succession of payments over several years before you can begin receiving income.

Within one year of purchase, an instant annuity enters the distribution phase and begins making payments. It may even begin making payments as soon as you sign up. A single lump-sum payment is usually used to fund an instant annuity.

Annuities and cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs)

When it comes to fixed annuities, inflation is a major consideration. Your money may not rise as quickly as it would with other assets like equities since fixed annuities provide a fixed return. Inflation can decrease the purchasing power of your annuity income once you start receiving installments.

You can purchase a rider that provides the cost of living adjustments to deal with inflation (COLAs). Your payments with a COLA rider start off low and steadily climb over time. Instead of receiving a $1,000 monthly payout for the life of the fixed annuity contract, you might purchase a COLA rider that starts at $600 per month and grows by 2% each year to keep up with inflation.

How does a fixed annuity compare to other annuities?

Fixed annuities provide more security and predictability than other types of annuities, but at the expense of potentially higher principal earnings. Variable annuities and indexed annuities, for example, have certain similarities to fixed annuities but may offer higher payouts—and more risks.

  • Fixed annuity vs Variable annuity

Fixed annuities are considered the safest type of annuity by many financial professionals. It’s a simple concept: an annuity firm gives you a guaranteed minimum return based on the amount of your investment. You may estimate how much your annuity will rise over time.

Your payments with a variable annuity are based on market gains and losses. Contributions to a variable annuity, like those to a mutual fund, are invested in a portfolio of stocks, bonds, and other assets. If your investments perform well, your account balance will increase faster, and your future payments will increase as well. If your investments underperform, your balance may decrease, limiting the amount of future income you receive.

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  • Fixed annuity vs Index annuity

You take on greater risk with an index annuity than with a fixed annuity, but less risk than with a variable annuity. The return on indexed annuity contracts is based on a market index. You earn more when the index rises, and you earn less when it falls.

Unlike a variable annuity, an index annuity has a cap on gains and a floor on losses, limiting how much you can gain or lose each year.

For example, the contract might state that the maximum you can earn in good years is 8% and the minimum is 0%, implying that you won’t lose money during market downturns when the index falls below zero.

Advantages of a fixed annuity

  • Simplicity

Fixed annuities provide a number of advantages over other types of annuities, one of which is their simplicity. You may quickly compare terms and rates to obtain the best deal for your specific requirements. Indexed annuities and variable annuities, on the other hand, are more complicated and have more underlying fees. While not all indexed and variable annuities are bad offers in and of themselves, it’s much easier to spot a good fixed annuity deal because the contract details are more transparent.

  • Guaranteed returns

When you purchase a fixed annuity, you can expect a minimum investment return for the duration of the contract. Fixed annuity rates are frequently higher than CD or savings account rates, providing little risk for better returns. Fixed annuities, unlike CDs and savings accounts, are not insured by the FDIC. While annuities are insured in various ways, only buy them from well-reviewed and well-financed companies with a minimal chance of going bankrupt.

  • Predictability

Because a fixed annuity pays a constant return, you can estimate how much you’ll earn in the future, making retirement planning much easier. Your actual return on variable and indexed annuities is determined by the performance of various investments. You could make a lot more (or a lot less), but you’ll have no idea how much money you’ll make in the future.

Disadvantages of a fixed annuity

  • Less upside

While a fixed annuity protects against market losses, it does not share in market profits. A variable or indexed annuity, rather than a fixed annuity, could help you grow your investments faster during good years.

  • Guaranteed returns eventually end

After you sign up for an annuity, the company will only guarantee your fixed, minimum return rate for a certain number of years. They will continue to pay you interest after that period finishes, but the renewal rate may be lower than when you first signed up for, depending on your contract terms.

  • Inflation could hurt returns

During periods of significant inflation, a fixed annuity may not be able to keep up with your savings. Including a COLA rider in your fixed annuity payments could assist you to avoid losing money due to inflation. However, keep in mind that adding a COLA rider may reduce the number of your initial payouts.

Other fixed annuity considerations

  • Fixed annuity payments are subject to taxes

Even though they’re funded with money you’ve previously paid taxes on, withdrawals from fixed annuities are taxed, unlike some tax-advantaged retirement funds. Annuity earnings, like those in Traditional IRAs and 401(k)s, grow tax-deferred.

  • Early withdrawals are penalized

Withdrawals made before the age of 59 12 are subject to a 10% penalty on the amount taken out, just like retirement accounts.

  • States regulate annuities

Fixed annuities, unlike financial products and bank accounts, are not regulated by the federal government. Each state’s insurance commissioner regulates these contracts only at the state level. Fixed annuity companies and their representatives must register with the insurance commissioner in each state where they conduct business. The state government ensures that everything is handled appropriately and that client complaints are addressed.

  • Insurance funds, not the FDIC, guarantee annuity payments

Your return and account balance is guaranteed by the fixed annuity business, but what if they go bankrupt? Fixed annuities are not insured by the federal government like bank deposits are. Even if you buy an annuity from a bank, this is true.

State governments, on the other hand, have insurance funds that cover annuities and other types of insurance. If your fixed annuity firm goes bankrupt, the fund will reimburse you up to statutory limits for the amount of your annuity. Depending on the state, coverage might range from $250,000 to $1 million.

If your contract is worth more than the state limit, you may not be able to recover your entire investment if the company goes bankrupt. This is why, before signing up for an annuity, you should verify the credit rating of the organization to ensure that they are financially sound and can safely make your future payments.

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It may be beneficial to contact a financial expert regarding fixed annuities while you consider your options. They can explain these contracts in further depth and assist you in finding the best deal for your money.

Example of an annuity

A life insurance policy is an example of a fixed annuity, in which an individual pays a certain sum each month for a set length of time (usually 59.5 years) and receives a set income stream throughout their retirement years.

An instantaneous annuity is one in which a person pays a single premium to an insurance company, say $200,000, and then receives monthly payments, say $5,000, for a set length of time. The amount that an instant annuity pays out is determined by market conditions and interest rates.

Annuities can be a good part of a retirement plan, but they’re also complicated financial instruments. Many employers do not provide them as part of an employee’s retirement portfolio due to their complexity. However, President Donald Trump signed the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act into law in late December 2019, loosening the regulations on how businesses can choose annuity providers and incorporate annuity alternatives in 401(k) and 403(b) investment plans. The relaxation of these requirements may result in more annuity choices becoming available to qualifying employees in the near future.

10 things you should know about buying fixed deferred annuities

  1. What is an annuity?
  2. Examine different kinds of annuities
  3. Know-how interest rates are set
  4. Know what charges may be subtracted from your fixed deferred annuity
  5. Contract benefits of fixed deferred annuities
  6. Tax treatment of annuities
  7. Take advantage of the “free look” provision
  8. Is a fixed deferred annuity right for you?
  9. Some questions your agent should be able to answer
  10. Review your contract carefully

Special considerations

The majority of annuities have a surrender term. During this time, which could last several years, annuitants are unable to make withdrawals without incurring a surrender charge or fee.

During this moment, investors should think about their financial needs. If a major event, such as a wedding, necessitates large sums of money, it may be prudent to consider if the investor can afford to make the required annuity payments.

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In addition, contracts feature an income rider that guarantees a fixed income once the annuity kicks in.

There are two questions that investors should ask when they consider income riders:

  1. At what age do they need the income? Depending on the duration of the annuity, the payment terms and interest rates may vary.
  2. What are the fees associated with the income rider? While there are some organizations that offer the income rider free of charge, most have fees associated with this service.

Individuals that invest in annuities are unable to outlive their income source, hence reducing the chance of death. The product is appropriate as long as the buyer realizes that they are exchanging a liquid lump payment for a guaranteed series of cash flows. Some buyers expect to cash out an annuity at a profit in the future, however, this is not the product’s intended usage.

Calculating present and future value of annuities

To begin, distinguish between a regular annuity and one that is due. Most of us have made or received a series of fixed payments over time, such as rent or car payments, or a series of payments for a period of time, such as interest on a bond or certificate of deposit (CD). Annuities are the precise term for these recurrent or continuous payments (not to be confused with the financial product called an annuity, though the two are related).

There are numerous methods for calculating the cost of making such payments, as well as their final value. Here’s all you need to know about determining an annuity’s present value (PV) or future value (FV).

Two types of annuities

Annuities, in this sense of the word, break down into two basic types: ordinary annuities and annuities due.

  • Ordinary annuities: An ordinary annuity makes (or requires) payments at the end of each period. For example, bonds generally pay interest at the end of every six months.
  • Annuities due: With an annuity due, by contrast, payments come at the beginning of each period. Rent, which landlords typically require at the beginning of each month, is a common example.

You can calculate the present or future value for an ordinary annuity or an annuity due using the following formulas.

Calculating the future value of an ordinary annuity

Certain a given interest rate, future value (FV) is a measure of how much a series of regular payments will be worth at some point in the future. If you plan to invest a specific amount each month or year, for example, it will calculate how much you will have accumulated at a later period. The future value is useful in evaluating the overall cost of a loan if you make regular payments on it.

Consider a sequence of five $1,000 payments spread out over a period of time.

Because of the time value of money, which states that any given sum is worth more now than it will be in the future because it can be invested in the interim, the first $1,000 is worth more now than it will be in the future. So, let’s say you put $1,000 aside every year for the following five years at a rate of 5%. The amount you would have at the end of the five-year term is shown below.

Rather than calculating each payment individually and then adding them all up, however, you can use the following formula, which will tell you how much money you’d have in the end:

PVOrdinary Annuity =C×[1−(1+i)−n]

where:

C=cash flow per period

i=interest rate

n=number of payments

Calculating the present value of an ordinary annuity

In contrast to the future value calculation, a present value (PV) calculation tells you how much money would be required now to produce a series of payments in the future, again assuming a set interest rate.

The formula for determining the present value of an annuity is PV = dollar amount of an individual annuity payment multiplied by P = PMT * [1 – [ (1 / 1+r)^n] / r]

where,

  • P = present value of your annuity stream
  • PMT = dollar amount of each payment
  • r = discount or interest rate
  • n = number of periods in which payments will be made

6 annuity risks and how to avoid them

If you’re considering purchasing an income annuity as part of your retirement strategy, you’re probably looking forward to a guaranteed source of income for the rest of your life and, of course, peace of mind. These benefits are quite real, and an annuity may be an excellent option for you.

However, before you buy, keep in mind that an income annuity, whether immediate or delayed, has some downsides and disadvantages that you should assess. You can manage the impact that these hazards may have on you if you plan beforehand.

  1. Illiquidity

When the initial “free look” time expires on most annuities, you are locked into the arrangement. You will be restricted or prevented from receiving a refund of your principal beyond this time period.

The expenses and penalties for those organizations that do allow a one-time limited discretionary withdrawal can be significant. As a result, only acquire an annuity if you have enough cash on hand after paying the insurance company’s premium.

  1. Dying early

You will not enjoy the benefit of the future payments if you die too soon after purchasing an income annuity. This risk is present in all types of insurance, and it’s the price you pay for the peace of mind of knowing that your income will be assured no matter how long you live.

Most of my clients accept this risk because they place a higher value on security, but you should think about it and understand the ramifications for your beneficiaries.

  1. Company risk

Choose an insurance company that has a strong financial foundation. Your income annuity’s future income is contingent on the insurer remaining sound and healthy for many years and decades.

Fortunately, most states have guarantee funds in place to safeguard annuity holders in the case of insurer collapse, making this a very unlikely occurrence. Nonetheless, choosing an insurer with high ratings from companies like A.M. Best or Standard and Poor’s, which measure insurers’ stability, is your best bet.

Lower-ranking corporations may offer bigger payments, but this is rarely a good trade-off. Because state coverage has dollar limits, if you’re concerned about losses, divide your annuities among several insurers to be under coverage limits.

  1. Inflation

Your annuity will most likely offer income for many years and decades to come. Keep in mind how rising inflation may lower the purchasing power of those payments in the future.

You might want to choose a rider that adjusts your annuity benefit for inflation (at an extra expense) so that rising inflation does not undermine the value of your annuity payments.

  1. Opportunity cost

An annuity can be a crucial part of your retirement strategy, and many individuals value the peace of mind it provides. However, keep in mind that the money you put into an annuity will be unavailable for other investments.

You run the risk, as with any long-term financial decision, of doing better if you had invested your money somewhere else. Because it is impossible to foresee how the future will unfold as you approach retirement, a diversified portfolio is usually your best bet.

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In fact, having an income annuity may provide you with a solid enough foundation income stream to allow you to take more risks with other aspects of your investing portfolio.

  1. Interest rate risk

Interest rates have been falling for more than 30 years, and this has a significant impact on the payouts offered by insurers on annuities. Low interest rates limit the amount of money that insurance firms may pay out.

If you’re concerned about buying an annuity at a low rate, try laddering, which involves spreading your annuity purchases out over several years. Regardless of what prognosticators say, the future is unpredictable.

While interest rates appear to be at an all-time low, they may fall even more, as they did in Japan. Weigh the interest rate risk against the inconvenience that a worst-case scenario would bring, and be sure you’re willing to give up some upside potential for the peace of mind that comes with knowing your requirements are met.

The bottom line

Fixed annuity can help you have a carefree life especially if you have neared your retirement. Though that depends on many factors, including your age, your financial goals, your retirement plans, the resources you have available, the amount of risk you wish to take on, and how long you expect to live.

Charles Bains

Charles Bains started his insurance career as a marketing intern before pounding the pavement as a commercial lines agent in Orlando, FL. As an industry journalist, his articles have appeared in a variety of trade publications. His insurance television career, short-lived but glorious, once saw him serve as the expert adviser on an insurance-themed infomercial (yes, you read that correctly). Having recently worked for various organizations, coupled with his broader insurance knowledge, Charles is able to understand our client’s needs and guide them accordingly. He is a gem for Insurance Noon as his wide area of expertise and experience have been beneficial in conducting further researches to come up with solutions and writing them in a manner which is easy for everyone including beginners to comprehend.

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