Understanding Fixed Annuities

It’s time to rethink, and reframe retirement.

In recent years, the financial markets have experienced extreme swings. This historic volatility combined with the limited availability of traditional retirement income sources, such as defined benefit pension plans, has placed a greater responsibility on Americans saving for their future. With this greater responsibility comes a need for financial solutions that can help provide a new level of protection for retirement savings.

If your long-term objective is to build a source of guaranteed lifetime income, save for a specific retirement goal, or leave a legacy to a charity or your loved ones, American Brokerage Services (ABS) can help by offering annuities designed to meet your retirement needs. With the assistance of ABS, we can help you insure a portion of your retirement assets and look beyond uncertainty as you prepare for your future.
Understanding the basics
A fixed annuity is a contract between you and an insurance company that may help you reach your long-term financial goals. In exchange for your premium payment, the insurance company provides you income, either starting immediately or at some time in the future.
How a fixed annuity works
Most fixed annuities have two phases. First, there’s an accumulation phase, during which you let your money earn interest. This is followed by a distribution or payout phase, during which you receive money from your annuity.

A fixed annuity guarantees you will receive at least the minimum guaranteed interest credited to the contract.  Remember that all of these guarantees are backed by the claims-paying ability of the issuing company.

With a fixed annuity, you defer paying taxes on your contract’s interest until you receive money from the contract. Tax-deferred interest means the money in your contract can grow faster. It grows faster because the money you would have paid in taxes continues to earn interest. The money is then compounding in growth every year.

You will be guaranteed the return of the money you originally paid into your fixed annuity, unless you surrender (withdraw more than a specified percentage or cancel) your annuity during the surrender charge period.
Phase one: Accumulation
The accumulation phase begins as soon as you purchase your annuity. Fixed annuities earn a fixed rate of interest that is guaranteed by the insurance company. The accumulation phase is generally from one year to ten years or more.
Phase two: Distribution
The distribution phase of a fixed annuity begins when you choose to receive income payments. You can always take income payments in the form of scheduled annuitization payments over a period of time, including your lifetime. And many fixed annuities allow you to take income withdrawals as an alternative to annuitization payments. Either way, you can choose from several different payout options based on your personal needs, including options for lifetime income, guaranteed.

Today’s fixed annuities offer a range of features and benefits that may help you accumulate assets for retirement, preserve what you’ve accumulated, turn those assets into a guaranteed stream of income, and help you pass on a financial legacy to your loved ones.

It should also be noted that you, the owner, always have a choice about what choices you make. You can also withdraw your funds at the end of the surrender period, and invest, or spend it differently. Taxation of the money will depend on the distribution method you choose.
The interested parties in a fixed annuity
Insurance company:

This is the company that issues the annuity. The insurance company is responsible for backing the annuity’s guarantees.

Contract owner/annuitant:

These usually are the same person, but they can be different. The owner makes decisions about the annuity, such as who the beneficiaries are. The annuitant is the person whose life expectancy is used to calculate annuity payments.
The beneficiary is the person who receives the annuity’s death benefit. Naming one or more beneficiaries is important because, without a beneficiary, the money in your annuity could be subject to probate.
Understanding the benefits
A fixed annuity offers a unique combination of benefits that can help you achieve your long-term goals: tax deferral, guaranteed interest in accumulation, and protection for your retirement assets and income.

Tax deferral

Under current federal income tax law, any interest in your fixed annuity contract is tax-deferred. When you begin receiving money from your contract, you pay ordinary income taxes only on your interest.  Withdrawals are taxed as ordinary income and, if taken prior to age 59½, a 10% federal tax penalty may apply.

Guaranteed interest

Fixed annuities can offer a guaranteed interest rate that is competitive with other long-term financial vehicles. And since the interest your contract earns is tax-deferred, it may accumulate assets faster.
ProtectionFixed annuities offer you a level of protection you may find reassuring. That protection can benefit you in three separate ways:
1. Accumulation – Your principal and credited interest are protected.

2. Guaranteed income – You can be protected from the possibility of outliving your assets.
3. Legacy – If you pass away before annuity payments begin, a fixed annuity may help provide for your loved ones.
Tax deferral
A fixed annuity offers tax advantages.
During the accumulation phase of your contract, any interest growth is tax-deferred. If you purchase your fixed annuity with after-tax dollars, you will only pay ordinary income taxes on your earnings – not on your premium payments – when you begin withdrawing money. Tax-deferred growth, compounded over time, may increase the amount of savings and income your fixed annuity generates for your retirement.

Tax deferral is also a benefit of traditional IRAs and 401(k)s. However, annuities don’t have any government-imposed contribution limits. Because of that, they can often be a good choice if you want to save more than IRAs and 401(k)s allow and still enjoy tax-deferred growth.

Purchasing an annuity within a retirement plan that already provides tax deferral results in no additional tax benefit. So use an annuity to fund a qualified plan based upon features other than tax deferral, such as lifetime income options or the guaranteed death benefit. Of course, a higher interest rate is still a viable reason to choose an annuity over another alternative product.

Tax-deferred growth, which can compound over time, may increase the amount of savings and income your fixed annuity generates for your retirement.
How tax deferral can help
Tax deferral can be an effective part of your retirement strategy. For example, this chart shows how a $100,000 initial payment, compounded at 5% annually, grows tax-deferred. Twenty years later, after taxes are paid on the lump-sum distribution, the amount is greater than the amount accumulated in a taxable product after 20 years.

UFA Picture 1

Assumes a 33% ordinary income tax assessed yearly on taxable earnings and at period end on tax-deferred earnings. Actual tax rates may vary from this example for different taxpayers and assets (e.g., capital gains and qualified dividend income). Actual performance of your contract will also vary. Hypothetical interest is not guaranteed and does not represent performance of any particular annuity. If a withdrawal or distribution is taken, the tax-deferred earnings would be reduced by income taxes on any interest, and if taken prior to age 59½, a 10% federal tax penalty may apply. Consider your personal retirement plan and income tax brackets, both current and anticipated, when making financial decisions.
Protection benefits
A third important advantage of a fixed annuity is the range of guarantees available. These allow you to transfer risk to the insurance company issuing the fixed annuity. These guarantees help protect your assets, your retirement income, and your beneficiaries.
Annuities are subject to surrender charge periods which can vary, but are generally between five and 10 years in duration. As long as you abide by the terms of your contract, you will not lose any of the money you place in your annuity due to surrender charges. And any interest credited to the contact is locked in and protected as well.

Guaranteed income

A fixed annuity puts you in control of your future income, based on the annuity you choose and how much money you put into it.

After your contract has had an opportunity to earn interest over its deferral period, you can begin taking payments. You can then receive your contract’s values in a stream of income that will last your lifetime (or longer). The amount of your payments is based on the value of the contract on the date you begin payments and the payout schedule you choose.

You generally have two choices for receiving income payments: annuitization payments or income withdrawals – each of these payment types is taxed differently. For annuities that are not held in a qualified plan such as an IRA or a 401(k), part of each annuitization payment is a tax-free return of what you paid for the annuity and part is taxable as interest you earned on the annuity. On the other hand, income withdrawals under the same annuity are fully taxable until the interest you earned has been taxed, and then you withdraw what you paid for the annuity tax-free. It’s always a good idea to consult with your tax advisor before choosing between annuitization payments and income withdrawals if you have any questions or concerns about which income payment type may be best in your own particular tax situation.

Annuities can give you the reassurance of having guaranteed income for life – so you can focus on doing the things you most enjoy.

Accumulation potential

A large part of fixed annuities’ accumulation potential is based on their tax-deferred growth. But keep in mind, fixed annuities also offer you interest rates that may compete with financial products that don’t provide tax deferral.

We establish your initial interest rate when you purchase your contract and guarantee it for one or more years. On your contract anniversary, we may announce a new rate, which will be guaranteed throughout the coming year.

Although your fixed interest rate may go up or down while you own your annuity, it will never fall below the minimum set when you purchased your contract.
Death benefit
If you pass away before you begin to receive scheduled annuity payouts of the contract’s value, your beneficiary may receive a death benefit. And in some cases, even if you pass away after you’ve begun to receive income from the annuity, it’s still possible your beneficiary will receive a death benefit. Your beneficiary may choose to receive your contract’s values in a single payment or in a series of payments over time.

The death benefit may be a reason some individuals purchase annuities even though they have no immediate plans to receive their contract values. They simply want to know the money is available (may be subject to a surrender charge) should they need it, and that it can be passed on to their beneficiaries if they don’t use it.

Financial strength

Because the guarantees in an annuity are important, it’s important to consider who backs those guarantees. The guarantees are backed solely by the insurance company that issues the annuity. That’s why you should know about the financial strength and stability of the company.

Is a fixed annuity right for you?

The answer, to this question, is different for everyone!

Only you know your goals for retirement, so only you can determine your income needs. A fixed annuity isn’t the right solution for everyone, and you shouldn’t buy one unless it’s appropriate for your situation.

However, tens of millions of Americans have decided that it was the right choice for them. You may want to consider a fixed annuity if the following benefits are important to you:

•        Tax deferral to help you reach your retirement goals more efficiently

•        Accumulation to help accumulate your retirement savings

•        Protection benefits that can help protect your retirement assets and income

•        Death benefits that pay to a beneficiary in the event of premature death

Purchasing an annuity is an important decision and one you should only make after consulting with your financial professional. For more information on fixed annuities, talk to your financial professional and visit www.absgo.com.