How Fixed Index Annuities Grow Your Money With Low Risk

Money accumulation is paramount as you approach retirement. However, high-risk, high-reward strategies may no longer suit your approach, as many retirees become increasingly risk-averse.

If you have savings that you want to grow risk-free, there are some options available to you. CDs, bonds, and money markets are safe, low-return ways to increase your savings over time. But fixed index annuities could provide a much greater return and are entirely risk-free.

In this post, we share the benefits of a fixed index annuity and explain how insurance companies avoid risk while growing your money.

Annuities are complex; however, they can be beneficial to a retirement portfolio if you understand them. That’s why we’ve created our “Annuities – Why Ever Use Them” series, to answer all the common questions about the pros and cons of annuities.

You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post, to listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…

 

This post is the fourth installment in the series, so we encourage you to listen to the first three episodes to learn more about annuities. Find them on our Secure Your Retirement podcast, read the posts on our blog, or follow the links below to watch the episodes on our YouTube channel:

1. Annuity types – a quick recap

As we dive into the details of how annuities work, it can be useful to have a foundational knowledge of different annuity products. For a quick, high-level overview, here are the main types of annuities and their key characteristics:

  • Immediate annuity: is a quick and simple way to get an immediate income stream. You give money to an insurance company, which redistributes it back to you as income. For example, if you bought a $100,000 immediate annuity, the insurance company could begin giving you $500 a month for the rest of your life.
  • Deferred annuity: is tax-deferred with some surrender penalties. Deferred annuities can be either variable or fixed and must be committed to for a certain period.
  • Variable annuity: you can use a variable annuity to invest in the stock market. Typically, variable annuities are used to buy mutual funds. There are fees, and a lot of risk involved as the market can fluctuate and so can your annuity’s value.
  • Fixed annuity: is tax-deferred with a principal guarantee, so unlike a variable annuity, you cannot lose any money. However, your money can still grow. Fixed annuities can be broken down into two types, traditional and index.
  • Traditional fixed annuity: similar to a CD, you lock your money in a traditional fixed annuity for a set period at a fixed interest rate. It’s a risk-free way to grow your money.
  • Fixed index annuity: this grows your money using market links. You may be tied to an index like the S&P 500 or the NASDAQ. You’ll receive a portion based on the index’s performance over an annual point to point reset. This means if you start your annuity on January 1st 2021, how the index performs between January 1st 2021 and January 1st 2022 will determine what interest will be credited to your annuity.

We’re going to focus on fixed index annuities in this post. We’ll break down how insurance companies can guarantee your principal even when your annuity is linked to market performance and explain why it’s a win-win for you and insurance companies.

 

2. How to earn interest on fixed index annuities

There are two ways to earn interest on a fixed index annuity, either through a cap or a participation rate.

A cap prevents your principal from reducing due to market volatility. So, if you set a cap at 5%, and your annuity’s index earns 10%, then your annuity will only grow up to 5% in that year. However, if the market falls, you cannot earn a negative rate of return, meaning that your money will not decrease below your guaranteed principle or any increases from previous years.

Participation rates are similar, but instead of using a cap, they increase your principal by a percentage of how the index performs. For example, if your index earns 10% and your participation rate is 50%, then you’ll earn a 5% rate of return.

We dedicated an entire podcast episode to explaining how caps and participation rates work in detail. To learn more about earning interest on fixed index annuities, please watch the episode.

 

3. How insurance companies guarantee your principal risk-free

Caps, participation rates, and a guaranteed principal mean that fixed index annuities can look almost too good to be true, and you may question how they benefit the insurance company.

Some of the most popular questions we get about fixed index annuities are, “If the index drops 20%, does the insurance company have to me back the equivalent of my loss? or “If my cap is 5%, and the index earns 10%, then does the insurance company keep the extra 5%?”

The answer to both questions is no. So how do insurance companies guarantee a rate of return on your principle without putting themselves at risk?

Here’s an example. You have $100,000 to put into an annuity with an insurance company. The insurance company manages billions of dollars and earns 3% on its total assets. They want more people to invest with them, so they try to attract new policyholders with a return rate of 2.5%. This might not be the most attractive rate to all potential investors, so they take the 2.5% and create a futures contract.

A futures contract is a legal agreement to buy or sell an asset at a predetermined price in the future. For example, if you wanted to buy a company’s share at $100, but the current price is $150, you could set up a futures contract to only buy a share when the price hits $100.

In the case of an index fund annuity, the insurance company takes the 2.5% and puts it into a futures contract related to your index. This futures contract might state that if the index increases, then the insurance company will participate. So, if the index goes up, then the insurance company can provide you with your agreed participation rate. However, if the index is down, then that 2.5% is lost, but it has no negative impact on your principal.

Caps work in a very similar way. If your cap is 5%, then the futures contract will expire at 5%. This will give your annuity a 5% rate of return, and the insurance company will not participate above 5%, meaning that they won’t be pocketing any extra money if the index continues increasing.

If the index is down in either case, then neither you nor the insurance company will lose anything, but you won’t earn a rate of return that year. The worst an index fund annuity can do is earn a zero rate of return, but there’s potential to earn a much greater amount, risk-free.

 

4. Why we recommend fixed index annuities for retirees  

Compared to bonds, CDs, and money markets, fixed index annuities are a good alternative to safely accumulate your money. They have no-risk and are much safer than investing in the stock market, but they have more earning potential than lower-rate products or accounts.

We highly recommend adding a fixed index annuity to your retirement portfolio, but only if you understand how they work.

 

We appreciate that annuities are complex and can be difficult to fully understand. If you have any questions, please reach out to us. We can discuss how annuities can work for your individual retirement plan and answer any further questions you may have. Start by booking a complimentary 15-minute call with a member of our team today.

Fixed Index Annuities: How They Work and Things to Consider

You may never have considered a fixed index annuity, but is it something you should look at for your retirement plan?

Many people think annuities are too complicated. That’s why throughout our “Annuities – Why Ever Use Them” series, we’ve tried to answer the questions which may have led you to dismiss them in the past.

In this post, we’re focusing on fixed index annuities, specifically how interest is credited on them. We’ll also recap some general advice on annuities, so you can stay informed about how they work and what they can offer.

What are annuities? A quick recap

If you’re unsure what annuities are, how they work and the benefits they offer, be sure to go back to part one and two of our “Annuities – Why Ever Use Them” series. It’s worth understanding the basics before we launch into the more complex areas of deferred fixed index annuities, which we’ll cover in this post.

As a quick recap, here are some key points to be aware of:

  • Annuities are generally used for one of two reasons: as a safe money alternative or as a fixed source of income in retirement.
  • There are two main types of annuities: immediate and deferred.
  • Immediate annuities are when an insurance company sets up an income stream based on your retirement assets.
  • A deferred annuity is used as both a safe money alternative and an income stream.
  • Deferred annuities have two types: fixed and variable. We wouldn’t recommend variable, as there’s a risk you could lose money.
  • Instead, we always suggest declared rate or fixed index deferred annuities.
  • A declared rate annuity offers a fixed rate of return over a set period; it’s often compared to a bond or a certificate of deposit (CD).
  • A fixed index annuity is when the rate of interest you earn varies in line with an index, such as the SMP500. This is a great option because you can benefit from upswings in the market without the risk of losing money.

We appreciate that’s a lot of information to take in. If you’re at all confused by how different types of annuities work, we’d encourage you to read parts one and two of the “Annuities – Why Ever Use Them” series.

Alternatively, listen to episode 26 and episode 30 of the Securement Your Retirement podcast, where we cover these topics in detail. They’re available on your usual podcast app or on YouTube.

What is an index cap and how does it affect a fixed index annuity?

Now we’ve covered what you need to know about annuities, let’s continue our conversation about how interest is credited on a fixed index annuity.

In part two of “Annuities – Why Ever Use Them,” we talked about the annual reset and how it relates to the interest you earn. Think of this as a reset point for the interest-earning period; it varies depending on the terms of your contract but usually happens every 12 months.

The beauty of a fixed index annuity is that any interest you earn is guaranteed and will be credited to your account on the annual reset. This then becomes the starting point for the new interest-earning period.

However, there are a couple of other things to note about interest crediting on a fixed index annuity, including the “index cap”.

The index cap is the maximum amount of interest you can earn in an interest-earning period, as a percentage sum. It’s set by the insurance company who controls your annuity and is based on a range of factors, including the overall financial outlook.

To help you understand how an index cap works on a fixed index annuity, here’s a simple example:

  1. You put $100,000 into a fixed index annuity
  2. The insurance company sets a 5% index cap
  3. The index performs well over your interest-earning period and is up 15%
  4. The index cap means you’ll make 5% interest
  5. The interest is credited during the annual reset
  6. You now have $105,000, which is guaranteed and will never fall

This is just a simple example to show you how the index cap dictates the interest you earn on a fixed index annuity. Whether it’s the SMP500 or the NASDAQ; no matter how strongly an index performs, you’ll only earn interest up to the index cap.

It’s worth remembering that you can’t lose money on this type of annuity, even if the index performs poorly or goes negative. Any interest made is guaranteed, so whatever you earn is yours to keep – making a fixed index annuity a powerful way to grow your retirement fund.

What is the participation rate and why does it matter?

Something else that affects the interest you can earn is what we call the “participation rate”. This is a percentage sum, set by the insurance company, which essentially decides how much money you should make from an index. 

To show you how the participation rate works and how it affects the interest you’ll earn on a fixed index annuity, here’s a basic example.

Let’s say you pay $100,000 into a fixed index annuity with a 50% participation rate. This means you’ll earn 50% of what your index makes.

So, if an index made 10%, you’d get 5%. If it made 12.5%, you’d make a 6.25% return.

Participation rates vary widely and are one of the first things we look for when finding the most lucrative fixed index annuity deals. Insurers offer lots of different rates, with the majority falling in the 80-90% range, though they can be higher or lower based on a range of factors.

Do you want to put your money in a fixed index annuity? We can help

The world of fixed index annuities can be complicated, with lots of options and things to consider. But if you think this sounds like the right direction to take with your retirement plan, we’re here to help.

Our experts have years of experience in helping people set up and manage a fixed index annuity. And with the potential to boost your retirement assets by a considerable amount, taking advantage of our knowledge and expertise is certain to be worth your while.

We’d also like to reiterate that while annuities may sound complicated, they have been around for a long time, with billions of dollars passing through them each year. Through our “Annuities – Why Ever Use Them”series, we want to get you thinking differently about these products, so you can make an informed decision on where to put your retirement assets.

Are you ready to take the next step on your retirement plan? Book a complimentary 15-minute call with a member of our team to discuss your retirement goals today.