If you have been around as long as me, you’ll remember the sign that simply said “Think.” It may have been something IBM dreamt up; that was the rumor. The small sign — often made of wood and similar to those that said “Mr. Jones” or “David Smith,” graced many a desk of many an exec in the 1950s and on into the 1960s — men and women with IBM and with other companies, too.

Maybe we should bring the sign back for our world of financial planning. In our world, the companies who sell products — mutual funds, investment annuities and third-party management arrangements — are not always our best friends. Think before acting.

As readers know, I really like living benefits as a backup to market value (the former only goes up; the latter goes up and down). Having said that, keep in mind that the important thing is to be able to use sub-accounts to achieve a good result. If we get so caught-up in living benefits that we forget to pay attention to the sub-accounts that create market value, we have done customers a disservice. If an investment annuity company is too restrictive on what sub-accounts may be used, because of living benefits, look elsewhere. And for both mutual funds and investment annuities, pay attention to expenses — does your customer get what he or she pays for? — and watch for too many changes.

While virtually all investment annuity companies have made changes to their products, following the 2008 debacle, many have retained the good parts of their living benefits — for this, Prudential, Jackson National, SunAmerica, Lincoln Financial, Allianz and others deserve great credit.

Have a wonderful week.

More blog entries from Richard Hoe.