How do you plan on spending your golden years? Perhaps exploring exotic locations or embracing the culture? Or, maybe you want to spend as much time as possible with the grandkids.
No matter your retirement plans, even the most adventurous seniors may consider investing in something commonly referred to as “plain vanilla”: fixed immediate annuities.
There is no question that the fixed immediate annuity is the simplest of all the annuity options. In most cases, the contract begins delivering steady income within 30 days of the investor buying it. And in all cases, within 13 months after purchase.
On the other hand, variable immediate annuities provide income quickly as well. But their payments vary. The reason? Depending on the performance of the underlying portfolio, the amount fluctuates.
A lump-sum payment is exchanged for regular income with an immediate annuity, regardless of the type. In most cases, these income payments will last for as long as the contract holder is alive, whether paid monthly, quarterly, semiannually, or annually. It could also be for a set period of time, such as 10 or 20 years, depending on the terms of the contract.
Overall, purchasing an immediate annuity can provide you with a consistent source of income if you don’t have a pension plan when you retire. However, you should read the following information before signing any contracts for an immediate annuity to understand how they work. Most importantly, when immediate annuities start paying out.
What is an Immediate Annuity, and How Does it Work?
Here’s what we need to clarify. First, an immediate annuity isn’t as liquid as, let’s say, your emergency funds. In other words, it cannot be accessed as easily as an emergency fund.
However, the annuity contract lets you start receiving payments immediately after purchase, so once you’ve purchased it, you can begin accepting payments right away. As a result, if you’re already retired and need a guaranteed income to cover living expenses or medical costs, you’d be better off with an immediate annuity rather than a deferred annuity.
I understand. There might be something fishy about this type of annuity contract. Let’s explore immediate annuities in more detail.
In the insurance world, this is known as a single premium immediate annuity (SPIA). An insurance agent/company, broker, or financial advisor will receive regular payments after you pay a lump sum, aka premium.
A deferred annuity involves delaying payments for a year or more – unlike an immediate annuity, where payments are distributed immediately after purchase. As an annuitant, you can also decide how often payments are made. Depending on the “mode,” you can receive payments every month, quarterly, or even annually.
Many people supplement their retirement income with immediate payment annuities. Buying an immediate annuity is an excellent way to secure a steady income for life or a set period of time.
Your monthly payments will vary depending on factors such as your age, interest rates, and how long you wish to continue making payments. For example, a fixed interest rate is usually associated with immediate annuities, but only for a limited period of time.
An immediate variable annuity is available from some insurers, however. They fluctuate based on underlying portfolio performance, just like variable deferred annuities. Another option is an inflation-indexed or inflation-protected annuity, which increases payments based on inflation.
Types of Immediate Annuities
The decision to purchase an immediate annuity is based on various factors, such as your age and financial situation. However, how immediate annuities are classified often determines that different types can be identified. Therefore, to choose the type that best suits your retirement plan, you need at least a basic understanding of these classifications.
First of all, annuities are classified according to the returns they promise. Depending on the type, this can either be fixed, variable, or index. In addition, annuities can be classified according to their length of payment. Payments for annuities are typically made throughout a lifetime or for a specified period of time.
There is no doubt that this can get very confusing very quickly. So now, let’s explore each annuity category in more detail.
Variable Immediate Annuities
A variable annuity’s payout rate depends on market performance, whether deferred or immediate. Due to this, they are similar to investment accounts such as 401(k)s and IRAs.
A lump-sum payment is required to purchase a variable annuity. You will then select one of the subaccounts you wish to invest in. For example, mutual funds, like subaccounts, contain stocks, bonds, and money market funds. As a result, your annuity payout will increase when your investments perform well. Conversely, investing in bad investments will result in decreased annuity payments.
Shortly put, variable annuities have growth potential. Historically, annuities of this kind have outperformed inflation and are tax-deferred. Despite this, it is also possible to lose money, and premature death is not protected.
If you can handle short-term changes, you may want to consider a variable annuity. Also, if the market takes a turn for the worse, having a diverse portfolio would help cushion the blow.
Fixed Immediate Annuities
An annuity of this type works similarly to a CD. Your upfront payment is exchanged for regular income. Since you’re not playing the market, fixed immediate annuities do not carry the same risk as variable annuities. In turn, this creates a more predictable and stable annuity payment.
There are, of course, some disadvantages to fixed annuities as well. Generally, you can expect lower returns from a fixed annuity. Additionally, because your money is locked up in a fixed interest rate, you can’t invest in more profitable investments. Finally, the value of your funds can also be diminished by inflation.
However, your income will be reliable, and you will be protected against market volatility.
Index Immediate Annuities
This type of annuity is sometimes referred to as a hybrid between a variable and a fixed one. Your payments are based on a market index, like the S&P 500. As is the case with variable annuities, you can expect to receive a larger payment when the index performs well. Your payments will decrease, however, if the index drops.
In addition, index immediate annuities come with caps and potential gains and losses. As a result, there’s less volatility than with variable annuities. As a result, your earning potential isn’t going to be as high in the good years. Nevertheless, the bad years won’t be as painful as they once were.
Losses on immediate annuities are usually also capped. As such, your initial investment in the index annuity is secure.
Term Immediate Annuities
There are some people who do not need lifetime incomes. They could, however, pay off excessive debt or medical bills with an income stream over the next five to 20 years. But, on the other hand, perhaps you just need a little bit of time to prepare for another income source, like a pension or Social Security.
A term annuity would be your best option in this situation. The premium is purchased with a lump sum, like other annuity types. You’ll receive payments over a specified period of time in exchange. In most cases, terms range from five to twenty years.
As soon as the term ends, the payments end as well. If you pass away during the time period, the schedule payments will be transferred to your beneficiary if you pass away during the time period.
People who need an income for a certain period of time are eligible for term immediate annuities. Additionally, they can be used to fund a life insurance policy, as this typically requires a fixed funding arrangement.
Lifetime Immediate Annuities
Is it possible to receive lifetime payments if you have your heart set on this? No problem. In addition, a lifetime annuity is available.
Buying this contract will provide you lifetime payments, as you’ve probably guessed from the name. So, for example, you could set up a joint lifetime annuity that covers both of you for the rest of your lives.
As long as at least one of you is alive, joint lifetime annuities will continue to pay lifetime payments. However, because this covers two lifespans, the likelihood that both of you will live a long and fulfilling life increases.
A lifetime immediate annuity provides a reliable source of income during retirement, whether joint or single.
The Advantages of Immediate Annuities
What is the most significant advantage of an immediate annuity? What about a little peace of mind?
In addition to providing a safe and dependable income, immediate annuities can provide lifelong benefits as well. Aside from these perks, immediate annuities also offer;
- There is no accumulation phase. In contrast to deferred annuities, immediate annuities don’t require accumulation. This means you can access your money within a month of purchasing the premium. Because of that, it is perfect for those who need funds immediately.
- Keep it simple. In most cases, you can set it and forget it with an immediate annuity. For instance, purchasing a fixed immediate annuity means you know exactly what the payments will be.
- Stabilizes your portfolio. An immediate annuity can even out assets whose values fluctuate if they are in a balanced portfolio.
- Investments that generate higher returns than certificates of deposit or Treasury bills. As long as your principal is protected, you may not earn as much as with riskier investments.
- There is no market exposure. You are protected from market volatility unless you choose a variable immediate annuity.
- Keeping your taxes under control. The tax-deferred nature of annuities means that you do not have to pay taxes until you begin withdrawing funds.
- There are no sales or administrative costs. In addition, an immediate annuity does not charge annual account management fees. Therefore, your monthly income will be credited with 100% of your premium.
- Easily customized. The amount and length of your payment are up to you. Additionally, you can choose between “Single” and “Joint” annuities. You can also attach a death benefit or protect yourself against inflation with riders.
The Disadvantages of Deferred Annuities
There are, however, some flaws in immediate annuities. In regards to immediate annuities, the following criticisms have been raised.
- Upfront costs are high. An immediate annuity is paid upfront in one lump sum. So, a deferred annuity might be a good choice if you don’t have enough money.
- It is irrevocable. I cannot emphasize this enough. There is no liquidity with annuities. The amount and frequency of payments you receive are determined after the annuity is fully set up. The annuity may not be available if you have an emergency. You may only be able to withdraw a percentage or pay surrender charges if you can make a withdrawal.
- Inflation can reduce their value. For example, a fixed annuity with an immediate payout could lose value due to inflation. To address this issue, you may want to consider purchasing a cost of living adjustment rider.
- It is possible for payments to decrease or cease. For example, upon your death, the annuity benefit will cease. But, beneficiaries can receive payments if a death benefit is added. It is possible, however, that their returns will be lower.
When Does An Immediate Annuity Begin Making Payments?
An immediate annuity is irrevocable, which means you cannot reverse the decision once you start the policy. The term “annuitization” or “annuitizing” refers to these irreversible income streams. Using SPIAs, you can either receive your annuity checks within 30 days or defer them for up to 12 months.
If you wish to defer the income for more than 12 months, you might be interested in buying a Deferred Income Annuity or a QLAC.
If you’d like retirement income for life but prefer more flexibility and control, consider a Guaranteed Lifetime Withdrawal Benefit. As a result of the income rider, the results will be comparable to the SPIA annuity but generally better.
Immediate Annuity Payouts
An immediate annuity is a series of payments made over time. Below you will find a brief description of how income annuities are paid out.
A lifetime immediate annuity pays income for the life of the Annuitant. But no payments after the death of the Annuitant. So, choosing this option is not recommended if you want someone to receive payments after the Annuitant passes away.
Joint and Contingent Life Income
Income payments will continue as long as either the annuitant or contingent annuitant lives. Therefore, the joint-life income amount will be paid in full to the Annuitant for as long as they live.
Contingent annuitants are paid for as long as they live, regardless of whether the Annuitant dies before them.
However, payments will cease at the death of either the Annuitant or the contingent Annuitant.
Income for a Fixed Period
Guaranteed payments are available based on the number of years and months selected in the application. In addition, annuitants who die in a fixed period are entitled to a death benefit consisting of a lump sum equal to the commuted value.
The death benefit recipient may elect to receive the remaining guaranteed annuity payments as an alternative to receiving the commuted value. An ordinary annuity or period certain annuity can also be called a fixed period annuity.
Life Income with a Guaranteed Period
Annuitants receive income payments for as long as they live. Should the Annuitant pass away during the guaranteed period, though, the remaining guaranteed payments will be paid to you or your beneficiary.
Life Income with Installment Refund
Annuitants receive monthly payments beginning on the income start date and will continue for as long as they live.
Payments can continue to the primary beneficiary before the total payments equal the original purchase price if the Annuitant dies before receiving the annuity payments equal to the original purchase price.
Life Income with a Cash Refund
The Annuitant’s payments are guaranteed to continue for the duration of their life after the income start date. At the same time, annuitants who die before receiving at least the purchase price of an annuity will be compensated in a lump sum if they don’t receive the difference in the total annuity payments.
Inflation Adjusted (Cost of Living Adjustment)
This feature allows you to select an initial income amount less than the current inflation rate with annual increases.
Immediate Annuity FAQs
1. How can you fund an immediate annuity?
Purchasing an immediate annuity requires a lump sum payment. Therefore, upon signing, you must pay the entire lump sum or premium upfront. Fortunately, various options are available for funding an immediate annuity.
The first option is to use non-qualified sources of funding. In this category, you’ll find items for which you’ve already paid taxes, such as;
- Certificate of deposit (CD)
- Mutual fund proceeds
- Money market accounts
- Life insurance settlement
- After-tax savings
- Deferred compensation
- A deferred annuity that was funded with the sources above
In addition, qualified sources that you haven’t yet taxed can be used to fund the annuity, such as;
- 401(k) plans
- Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plans
- Corporate-sponsored defined contribution plans
- Section 403(b) tax-sheltered annuities
- Section 1035 annuity exchanges
- Annuities previously funded with the sources above
In case you’re wondering, the cost of an immediate annuity varies on your age and interest rates. Additionally, it’s not unusual for agents who sell immediate annuities to charge a 3% commission.
2. What does “annuitization” mean?
In annuitization, your premiums are transformed irrevocably into guaranteed income streams. In addition, when you annuitize your money, you receive certain benefits.
A significant benefit of annuitization is that it disperses your interest over time. As opposed to disbursements, in which interest is paid before the principal, this type of payout is available through numerous annuity products.
If your growth-based annuity has appreciated significantly tax-deferred, annuitization can be a powerful tool. Annuitizing can help you disperse your tax burden while generating an income stream that is guaranteed.
Fixed immediate annuities require a minimum accumulation period of 30 days, while deferred immediate annuities require a maximum accumulation period of 12 months.
3. What’s the return rate/payout on an immediate annuity?
There are several factors to consider, such as the number of monthly payments the owner receives, age, gender, premium amount, and whether they have a single or joint life insurance policy. If you choose a fixed annuity such as Due, your money will earn a guaranteed 3% interest rate.
That may sound too good to be true. But it’s not.
4. How is my immediate annuity taxed?
IRAs and 401(k)s are pretax retirement vehicles, so all their earnings are taxable because they haven’t been taxed before. However, due to the special Roth tax treatment, you do not have to pay taxes on income from a Roth IRA annuity.
When using regular post-tax funds, it depends on what kind of income you have. Annuitized annuities consist of the return of premium and interest, as would be the case with immediate or deferred income annuities. However, taxes are imposed on the interest portion of the loan.
You are fully taxed at first if you take distributions from a Multi-Year Guarantee Annuity or a Fixed Index Annuity. However, you’ll start receiving your original premium back once you’ve received all of your earnings from distributions. Since you will be earning interest again if you receive all your premiums back, your income will be taxable again.
5. When should you consider an immediate annuity?
Depending on your situation, an immediate annuity might be a viable option for you:
- As a retiree, you will need a reliable source of income. You begin receiving payments immediately, and you can rely on them for the rest of your life.
- During retirement, you want to generate a secure income.