Ten thousand Americans a day are turning 65, including a couple we’ll call Stu and Helen. In excellent health, Stu and Helen could be facing a retirement of 30 years — or even longer. One of their biggest fears about their impending retirement is their potential longevity — and running out of money to not only pay their bills, but enjoy their free time.
Stu and Helen participated in their companies’ 401(k) plans. Like many workers, neither has a traditional pension, so they are solely responsible for their own retirement security.
Fortunately, couples like Stu and Helen have options for creating a “personal pension.” By using some of their savings to purchase an annuity, they can guarantee a steady stream of income for life.
With an immediate annuity, they can make a lump-sum payment to a life insurance company, and the company will send them their choice of monthly, quarterly or annual payments. They can choose to receive the income payments over a specified number of years or as a guaranteed stream of income they can never outlive.
They could also consider purchasing a deferred annuity, which allows savings to grow tax-deferred during an accumulation phase until they decide when payouts begin. People who are years away from retirement — or who are retired but don’t need income right away — might choose this type of annuity.
With a deferred annuity they decide how their money grows during the accumulation phase. A fixed annuity earns interest at a guaranteed rate. An index annuity is tied to a market index like the S&P 500 stock price index. In a variable annuity, savings are placed in subaccounts that are invested in stocks and bonds.
Another option is a special type of deferred annuity, often called longevity insurance, which will provide them with a guaranteed stream of income once they reach a certain age, usually around 85.
Surveys show that 90 percent of annuity owners think annuities are an effective way to save for retirement. And annuities are among the most regulated financial products in the marketplace.
From product development to advertising to sales, life insurers must comply with state and federal laws and rules that help prevent fraud and protect consumers. In addition, most states provide a “free look” period allowing customers to return annuities to the insurance company for a full or partial refund.