Annuities Can Be Complex
There are numerous different types of annuities, which can cause a lot of confusion among consumers. Is a single premium instant annuity right for you? A variable-rate deferred payment annuity? An indexed fixed annuity? It might not be easy to sort through the various elements of each annuity, especially when one insurance company’s fixed indexed annuity differs from another’s.
Holders of annuities and other insurance products, for example, are frequently subjected to a mortality and expense (M&E) risk charge. It compensates the insurance for any losses incurred by unforeseen events, such as the annuity holder’s death.
Your Upside May Be Limited
When you buy an annuity, you’re sharing your risk with the rest. You’re paying a charge to the insurance company that sells you the annuity to manage that risk. You might not make more money from an annuity than you put into it or as much as you could have made if you put your money somewhere else, just like you might not make more money from homeowners’ insurance if your house doesn’t burn down.
You Could Pay More in Taxes
Several potential annuity disadvantages relate to taxes.
Ordinary income vs. capital gains
An ongoing criticism is that annuity income is taxed as ordinary income, subject to 22% to 35% marginal tax rates for middle-income households. However, this disadvantage of annuities is not as severe as it may appear.
Traditional 401(k) and IRA payouts are likewise subject to regular income taxation. (Roth 401(k) and Roth IRA distributions are tax-free since you put money into them with money already taxed.) When these are sold, they are taxed at long-term capital gains rates. The essential comparison applies to nonretirement investments held for more than a year.
No step-up in the cost basis
Here’s a step-up basis when you leave them investments like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and real estate. Even if you paid $10,000 for an investment, if it is worth $20,000 when you die, the IRS considers your heirs to have paid $20,000. They won’t owe any taxes if they sell it right away for $20,000. They will only pay tax on $5,000 if they sell it for $25,000 two years later, and that money will be taxed at their long-term capital gains rate. Tax penalties before age 59½
It’s difficult to read an article regarding annuities without hearing about the drawback of the 10% early withdrawal penalty, but most themes don’t explain when it applies. You may have misled yourself into believing that pulling any money out of an annuity contract before the era of 5912 will result in a 10% penalty tax. It’s not that easy, and the punishment occurs far less frequently than you might assume.
Expenses Can Add Up
The total cost of an annuity might be obscured by fees, reducing the amount it pays out. 17 Before you acquire an annuity, know how much you’ll have to pay for all the features you want. While a mortality and expenditure charge is always required, some fees are only applicable to types of annuities. Other costs are only charged if you add optional features to your annuity.
The following are common annuity expenses you should be aware of:
- Expense fee and mortality
- Fee for administration
- Charge for contract maintenance
- Fee for subaccount
- The premium tax imposed by the state (in seven states and Puerto Rico)
- Fee for transferring investments
- A “surrender charge” is a contingent deferred sales charge.
- The primary safeguard
- Cost-of-living adjustment/inflation protection
- Rider for long-term care
- Rider for lifetime income
- Check the fee disclosures for any annuity you’re thinking about buying. To learn how costs for similar annuities differ, compare them.
Guarantees Have a Caveat
The insurer’s financial soundness determines the annuity’s guarantees. Because the FDIC, like bank accounts, does not protect annuities, you should examine the insurance company’s financial strength ratings with AM Best and Standard & Poor’s before you buy.
If the insurance firm that supplied your annuity fails, few possibilities are. Another insurance firm might take over and make the changeover smooth. You may have to rely on the coverage provided by your state guaranty association if another insurance carrier does not take over.
Inflation Can Erode Your Annuity’s Value
Any investment loses value due to inflation. If you obtain an 8% return on your investment and inflation is 2%, your real return is only 6%. If you get 1% on a certificate of deposit (CD) but inflation is 2%, your real return is -1%. Similarly, given long-term historical average inflation rates of over 3%, your annuity payout is unlikely to keep up with your spending if it is not adjusted for inflation.
The Bottom Line
Apart from marketing, there’s a reason Stan the Annuity Man has a column, a website, a podcast, a YouTube channel, and multiple books: When it comes to annuities, there’s a lot to unpack. An annuity prospectus can be the length of a short book and contain a lot of strange jargon, so it’s understandable that people avoid reading them and don’t completely comprehend these arrangements.About Complete Controller® – America’s Bookkeeping Experts Complete Controller is the Nation’s Leader in virtual bookkeeping, providing service to businesses and households alike. Utilizing Complete Controller’s technology, clients gain access to a cloud platform where their QuickBooks™️ file, critical financial documents, and back-office tools are hosted in an efficient SSO environment. Complete Controller’s team of certified US-based accounting professionals provide bookkeeping, record storage, performance reporting, and controller services including training, cash-flow management, budgeting and forecasting, process and controls advisement, and bill-pay. With flat-rate service plans, Complete Controller is the most cost-effective expert accounting solution for business, family-office, trusts, and households of any size or complexity.