Strategies For Laddering Annuities
Most investors are familiar with the method of laddering CDs and bonds to stagger maturities. In this manner, you can access money (upon maturity) free from surrender charges on an annual basis. The primary reason that laddering strategies are used is because of interest rates and the possible advantage of the potential increases. No one, not even experts, can correctly predict interest-rate movements; so using laddering strategies is a prudent and effective way to address the unknown.
A fact unknown by most is that annuities can also be laddered, and those laddering strategies can be used for income or yield. Laddering CDs and bonds would be categorized as laddering for yield. With annuities, you can ladder for yield using fixed annuities, but you can also ladder for income.
MYGA Annuity Ladders Produce Yield Similar to CDs
Fixed-rate annuities, also known as Multi-Yield Guarantee Annuities (MYGAs), work similarly to CDs. A fixed rate is a guaranteed rate lasting for a specific period of time. There are no annual fees with fixed rate annuities, and surrender charges decline annually over the contractual time period. The main difference between a CD and a fixed-rate annuity (MYGA) is that the interest compounds tax-deferred on an MYGA. You have to pay taxes on the interest every year on CDs in a non-IRA account.
A Common Fixed-Rate Annuity Ladder Would Be a 3-, 4- and 5-Year Strategy.
For example, if you had $300,000, you would place $100,000 each in the three-year, four-year, and five-year fixed-rate annuities. These types of fixed annuities have no fees, and the yield is guaranteed. As money comes due beyond the surrender charge period, you can take the money in full and pay taxes on the interest, or you can transfer it to another annuity and continue to defer the taxes.
What Is a Mixed-Fixed Ladder?
A mixed-fixed ladder is a combination of Fixed Rate Annuities (MYGA) and Fixed Indexed Annuities (FIA). It has the possibility of a slightly higher overall return because of the index option potential of the FIA portion of the ladder.
What Is a Fixed-Index Annuity, or FIA?
A fixed-index annuity, also referred to as an indexed annuity, fully protects your principal but also has a growth component attached to a call option on an index (typically the S&P 500). Indexed annuities were introduced in 1995 and designed to compete with CD returns.
Origin of Laddering Annuities
Annuities originally came about (as early as the Roman times) as a way of providing a guaranteed income. Laddering annuities for income can be structured in many ways. Let’s take a look at a couple of annuity ladders that provide ongoing income:
The Annuity Lifetime Ladder Utilizes SPIAs
The Lifetime Ladder involves buying Single Premium Immediate Annuities (SPIAs) over a specific period of time. The strategy is designed to catch interest rates as they rise (hopefully) in conjunction with the life expectancy of the annuitant (payee) decreasing with time. Here’s a common example: a person with $500,000 wants to guarantee a lifetime income stream but is concerned that the current low-interest rates might rise in the future. An efficient Lifetime Ladder would include the purchase of a $100,000 Single Premium Immediate Annuity (SPIA) every year for 5 years.
Even if rates remain the same during that period, the subsequent payouts will be higher based on the annuitant's age at the time of purchase. If rates rise, the payout will be even higher.
The Target Date Stairstep Ladder Utilizes DIAs
This type of ladder involves Longevity Annuities - also known as deferred income annuities (DIA) - and starting the income at different intervals. The Target Date Stairstep Ladder strategy is typically used to combat future inflation by having different lifetime income streams turning on at future specific dates. An example of this could be a 60-year-old with $400,000 allocated to cover for future inflation. Four separate Longevity Annuities (DIA) would be purchased at ages 65, 70, 75, and 80. Annuity income is primarily based on your life expectancy at the time the income stream is turned on; so as you age, the payments are calculated higher.
Each subsequent DIA would pay out at a higher rate