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Nationwide is testing a web-based retirement savings product sales program in Arizona.

The program, Guaranteed Retirement Income from Nationwide, will offer fixed annuities to Arizona residents ages 35 to 70.

The purchasers can contribute $120 to $12,000 per year for 15 years, or until they turn 65, whichever is longer. The purchasers can also choose between making the payments on a monthly, quarterly or annual schedule, and they can increase or decrease their contributions at any time, Nationwide says.

— (Related on ThinkAdvisor: Lincoln Financial Rolls Out ETF-Only Variable Annuity: Portfolio Products)

The Columbus, Ohio-based company hopes to make up for the purchasers’ lack of face-to-face access to advisors by offering the users access to an online calculator. The purchasers can use the calculator to calculate how much they will receive in future annuity income.

If the program works well in Arizona, Nationwide plans to make the program available in the rest of the United States, the company says.

Principal Adds Variable Annuity Options

Principal Financial Group added two variable annuity products: the Principal Lifetime Income Solutions II Variable Annuity contract and the Principal Pivot Series Variable Annuity contract.

The lifetime income contract is aimed at consumers who want to choose a guaranteed level of income. The Pivot Series contract is aimed at consumers who want to have extra flexibility and a menu of 85 different investment options.

AXA Aims Program at Employer Plan Market

AXA has introduced AXA Retirement 360, a program aimed at sponsors of 401(k) plans and similar types of retirement plans, such as 403(b) plans. The program will offer enrollees access to a menu of mutual funds, along with access to a group fixed annuity that can provide a guaranteed minimum interest rate on savings.

The AXA program offers U.S.-based employer and enrollee support services. Employers can get fiduciary protection from Wilshire Associates, an investment advisory and consulting firm. The investment menu includes options aimed at workers who want to pick funds based on their anticipated retirement dates, and it also includes options aimed at workers who want to pick funds based on their level of tolerance for risk.

Milliman Finds Drop in Funding Level At Big U.S. Pensions

Milliman, an actuarial consulting firm, says the 100 biggest U.S. defined benefit pension plans increased the market value of their assets 2.4% in 2016, to $1.4 trillion.

Obligations increased 3.2%, to $1.7 trillion. Because the obligations increased faster than assets, the percentage of pension obligations that are funded fell to 81.2%, from 81.9%. The discount rate sponsors used to value assets fell to 3.99%, from 4.29%.

The Milliman figures show how economic forces are affecting all private organizations that are trying to provide guaranteed retirement benefits.

For insurance agents and financial advisors, the pension reports can also provide information about how likely clients’ traditional plans are to provide the benefits promised.

— Read Lincoln Financial Rolls Out ETF-Only Variable Annuity: Portfolio Products on ThinkAdvisor.