While lifetime income or immediate annuities have been around for years, insurance companies and some advisors are now finding they serve the profitable and ever-growing niche of financial planning for those who anticipate a much longer retirement horizon than their grandparents. The product exchanges an upfront investment with the guarantee of a regular paycheck as long as the owner lives, which helps ease investors’ fears of outliving their money.
Given the social and demographic trends, the concept of a guaranteed lifetime income is growing in popularity, says John Meyer, senior VP in charge of New York Life Insurance Co.’s annuity department. However, the market for these products has not as yet matched the enthusiasm for them generated by their creators–and some advisors.
Sales of fixed immediate annuities grew to $5.3 billion in 2004 from $4.8 billion in 2003, and have increased 8% in the first half of 2005 compared to the same year-ago period, according to LIMRA International, which tracks insurance statistics.
While more and more people are becoming more comfortable with the immediate annuity, interest in buying the product is highest among those clients who’ve “voiced a real concern that they are risk-adverse and they want to make sure they have money coming in” when they are older, says Mark Ferris, a financial planner with Yankee Cents Financial Services in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.
Ferris, who sells American Skandia’s immediate annuities, says he does have to address the risk of inflation when recommending immediate annuities–money will be worth less in 10 to 15 years if there is no change in interest rates. To hedge that risk, Ferris sells variable immediate annuities, which, because of market unease since 2000, have been sold in far fewer amounts than standard fixed immediate annuities, according to LIMRA research.