How to Decide If an Annual Fixed Index Annuity Is Right for You

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Indexed Annuities were actually designed and introduced in 1995 to compete with CD returns rather than the stock market. Fixed Index Annuities (FIAs) are also called Equity Indexed Annuities or just Indexed Annuities. 

It’s important to have realistic return expectations with FIAs and not to fall for the common agent sales pitch of “market upside with no downside.” The only part of that pitch which is true is the “no downside” piece.

Little-Known Facts About Getting an Annual Fixed Index Annuity

Here are some little-known facts about Annual Fixed Index Annuities:

They are inappropriately and incorrectly referred to as “hybrids” as part of a too often over-hyped sales pitch. It makes it sound like they really over-perform, but in reality, they do not. Most locks in gains (if any) on the contract anniversary date and those gains are limited by caps and spreads with the options strategy.

Some indexed annuities have longer option periods (2 years). They offer different index choices other than the S&P 500. It’s important to point out the importance of dividends.

FIAs lock in any gains only yearly on the contract anniversary date. Index options with FIAs typically start calculating index growth when the policy is issued, and there are numerous index option choices within an FIA with names like “annual point to point”, “annual sum”, and “monthly sum” and numerous other strategies including a fixed rate credited for the year.

You can mix and match all of the option choices provided. Every FIA is different with the percentage allocations having to equal 100 percent. For example, you could have 30 percent in the fixed rate, 35 percent in the annual point to point, and 35 percent in the monthly sum. You have the opportunity to change these choices annually, and the index levels are reset on the contract anniversary date as well.

FIAs can compete with Certificate of Deposits. Fixed Index Annuities (FIAs) were designed to compete with CDs and work well when those realistic return expectations are understood and allocated properly within a portfolio. FIAs are also efficient delivery systems for utilizing the future income guarantees on attached benefit income riders.

FIAs can be laddered with MYGAs and have no annual fees with no riders attached. They provide the ability to permanently lock in index option gains on an annual basis, and you can also change your option choices as well on the contract anniversary. Indexed annuities can be purchased with as short as 4 year surrender charge periods, and carry no annual fees if no riders are attached. The product can offer unique laddering strategies as well. A laddering strategy called the Mixed Fixed Ladder uses both MYGAs and FIAs in tandem.

Things to Consider Before Getting a Fixed Indexed Annuity

Fixed Index Annuities (FIAs) are the most over hyped, over promised, and most sold products in the world of annuities. Whether it’s the inappropriate use of the word “hybrid”, unregulated promotional ads and videos on the internet or the local bad chicken dinner seminar, the sales world of indexed annuities is the true wild, wild, west.

Here are things you should do before considering a Fixed Annuity:

Learn about what agents do. Too many agents with too little financial advisory experience have latched on to the FIA story with its high commission product structure. It takes an agent about a week to get licensed to sell Fixed Index Annuities (FIAs) because they are defined as a life insurance product and not a security. It is important to keep in mind exactly what the agent qualifications to sell them.  It is information that can help keep your vision on the realities of the products instead of falling for the hyped up sales pitches.

The indexed annuity sales industry goes pretty much unregulated with the existing rules not being enforced by the states that oversee the product. Anything can be said and promised to achieve the sale, and too often this is the case.

Know the expectation on returns. The truth is that Fixed Indexed Annuities are useful, but only with reasonable expectations on returns. These are not products that provide miracle market returns! The typical Fixed Indexed Annuity sales pitch is “market upside with no downside”, which is partially true. Yes, there is full principal protection with no downside, but the returns do not typically provide real market upside.

FIAs have historically provided similar returns to CDs, but those returns are not guaranteed. Indexed annuities do have a place in some portfolios, but are not “too good to be true” or “one size fits all” as commonly promoted. 

Do your homework. Don’t buy the dream. Buy the contractual realities of the annuity policy.