If you’re in the market for sustainable lifetime income, you’ve come to the right place if you’re looking at fixed income annuities. A fixed income annuity is a fixed (vs. variable) annuity that provides income payments for your lifetime or for a contractually-defined term.
There are three types of fixed income annuities, each one serving a different purpose in a retirement income plan. The three types are as follows:
- Single premium immediate annuity (“SPIA”)
- Deferred income annuity (“DIA”)
- Fixed index annuity (“FIA”) with income rider
The main distinction between the three types of fixed income annuities is the timing of the commencement of income payments. As its name implies, the income from a SPIA begins immediately. The actual start date is one month after the date of purchase assuming a monthly payout.
The income start date of DIA’s and FIA’s with income riders, on the other hand, is deferred. With both DIA’s and FIA’s with income riders, it’s contractually defined and is generally at least one year from the purchase date. Although you choose it when you submit your application, most DIA’s have a defined start date; with some wiggle room available on some products. The income commencement date for FIA’s with income riders is flexible other than a potential one-year waiting period and/or minimum age requirement.
Assuming that a DIA meets your retirement income planning needs, you should always consider including a death benefit feature which is optional with most DIA’s. Keeping in mind that the income start date is deferred, and it’s not unusual for the deferral period to be 10 to 25 years, especially when purchasing a DIA as longevity insurance, you probably don’t want to lose your premium, or investment, if you die prematurely.
If you purchase a DIA without a death benefit or return of premium (“ROP”) feature, and you die during the deferral period, not only will the income never begin, your beneficiaries won’t receive anything either. The death benefit or ROP feature serves the purpose of insuring your investment in the event that you die before your income distributions begin.
So how much does it cost to insure your DIA investment by adding an optional death benefit? To illustrate, I recently evaluated the transfer of $100,000 from one of my client’s IRA brokerage accounts to a DIA. My client is approaching her 65th birthday and, like all individuals with traditional IRA accounts, must begin taking annual required minimum distributions, or “RMD’s,” from her account by April 1st of the year following the year that she turns 70-1/2.
Assuming that $100,000 of my client’s IRA is transferred from her brokerage account to a DIA, and assuming that the income from her DIA begins when she turns 70-1/2, she can expect to receive lifetime monthly income of approximately $600 to $700, depending upon the DIA chosen. In one case, the monthly benefit would be reduced by $2.27, from $691.68 to $689.41 with a death benefit feature. In another case, the monthly benefit would be $1.09 less, at $664.41 without any death benefit vs. $663.32 with a death benefit.
In other words, the cost to insure the return of my client’s investment of $100,000 in the event of her death prior to turning 70-1/2 translates to an annual reduction in lifetime benefits of $13.08 or $27.24, depending on the DIA chosen. Not only is there no question about the value of the death benefit in this situation, it would be negligent in my opinion for any life insurance agent not to illustrate the addition of this feature.
Assuming that a fixed income annuity makes sense for you, and further assuming that a DIA is an appropriate solution as a piece of your retirement income plan, always evaluate your potential lifetime income payout with and without a death benefit.