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FIA sales soar as demographic case for guaranteed lifetime income grows

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There’s an enormous – and growing – group of consumers who can benefit from investment strategies that include lifetime income. There are more than 74 million Americans aged 55 and older, with 38 million over 65, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census. However, just over one-fourth (27%) of baby boomers are confident their savings will last throughout their retirement years.

Consumer demand for guaranteed lifetime income remains strong for three main reasons. First, the number of those reaching prime retirement age is growing significantly; the Pew Research Center estimated that 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 every day until 2030. Second, Insured Retirement Institute research shows two provisions – guaranteed monthly income and no risk of losing principal – are the most important traits of a retirement product. And third, people are living longer. The Society of Actuaries estimates that healthy 65-year-old men in the U.S. have a 50 percent chance of living to age 87, while women have a 50 percent chance of living to 89. A 65-year-old couple has a 50 percent chance that at least one spouse will live to 93.

The demographic case for lifetime income has never been more pronounced, according to Cathy Weatherford, IRI president and CEO. “There’s a large cohort on the cusp of retirement,” she said in a prepared statement. “These Americans will live longer in retirement than any generation before and will be more responsible for their financial security. This is a tremendous opportunity for the retirement income industry.”

The industry is responding to this growing demand for guaranteed lifetime income, with annuity providers coming up with new and innovative products that meet consumers’ changing needs.

In its fourth annual State of the Insured Retirement Industry report, IRI said ongoing product development is creating a wide array of consumer choices regarding lifetime income products, including new designs for fixed indexed annuities (FIAs).

FIAs are becoming increasingly popular, with sales up 51 percent since 2011. In the third quarter of 2015, FIAs racked up $14.4 billion in sales, beating by $1.5 billion their previous record of $12.9 billion, set in the second quarter of 2014, according to IRI data compiled by Beacon Research and Morningstar Inc.

Individuals are drawn not only to the optional guaranteed lifetime income provision, but the assurance that their initial outlay will be safe. FIA contracts protect principal even through market downturns, which is a huge selling point, especially for clients who may have lost assets during the 2008 market crash.

According to IRI research, FIAs are experiencing strong sales as a substitute for fixed-income investments, given that they provide a bond-like return that doesn’t include any interest-rate risk.

“Sales of FIAs should continue to experience growth with the introduction of new products, including those that offer ‘uncapped’ growth on the portion of the contract participating in the index,” according to the report.

IRI forecast that demand for annuities will remain strong given the following factors: investor desire for guaranteed lifetime income, an aging population, increased longevity and market volatility.

Positioning FIAs as a fixed-income alternative has resonated with both advisors and consumers and has led to substantial growth in the current low-interest-rate environment, the IRI report explained. Innovation in product design, including expanded use of many different broad market indexes and the evolution of crediting strategies, has made the product more versatile and broadened its application as a portfolio diversification tool.