Thursday, 14 August 2014
Dyman Associates Insurance Group of Companies News on 9 Need-to-Know Tips for Buying Annuities
You're probably something of an expert in your own field—and that field probably isn't insurance or annuities. How, then, can you work through the minefield of clauses, guarantees, and pages of small print? Here are nine ways to start.
While you may feel uncomfortable doing this, you're the one putting down thousands of dollars, and you have every right demand this. Remember: caveat emptor! It's the buyer who must beware; you must protect yourself. Ultimately, the language in the annuity contract is what matters, but it doesn’t hurt to memorialize your verbal agreement with the agent in writing.
Hopefully your agent is totally honest and will help write the agreement, and both parties can sign and date it. If the agent starts to waffle, trust your instincts.
Tip No. 1 – Buy an annuity only for the contractual guarantee. You're only guaranteed what's written into the contract. The language must be simple to understand. If you don't understand it, don't sign it.
Tip No. 2 – Protect yourself against default by the insurer. At a minimum, the insurance company should be A rated or higher by all rating agencies. In addition, many states have a fund that insures annuities up to a certain point. If your state has a $100,000 per policy limit, and you wanted to spend $200,000 on annuities, you're better off with two separate $100,000 policies. While annuities seem low risk, many people who had annuities written by AIG were quite concerned when the company went under.
Tip No. 3 – Demand full disclosure of fees. Many variable annuities can have management fees as high as 3%, but the fees are often hidden. There is, however, a simple way to make them very clear. Insurance agents often have a program that can project the yield from the variable component of the annuity based on any number that they put in. Ask the agent to run the projection at 0%.
Tip No. 4 – Avoid a "captive" agent. Instead of buying directly from the insurance company (a captive agent) consider dealing with a general agent who represents several companies. The agent can shop prices and coverage and get the best package to suit your needs.
Tip No. 5 – Consider taxes. While no one I know enjoys paying taxes, keep them in perspective. The right product with a safe company should be the first issue you deal with. However, the tax structure for each product is slightly different. The agent should be able to easily show you your liability per payment.
Tip No. 6 – If it sounds too good to be true, it normally is. You may have heard of annuities offering great yields – well above what you could expect to earn in the current market. Much like credit cards offering big rebates, when you read the small print, you are likely to find it's only for a short period of time or there's some other limit on it. Don't get caught up in the hype. The better it sounds, the more due diligence you should do.
Tip No. 7 – Get the agent to sign on his promises. When both parties finally come to agreement, you (the party writing the check) should look at the other person and say something to the effect of: "To protect both of us, let's agree upon what we agreed upon." Write the date and the names of the parties, and then start numbering the points.
Tip No. 8 – Demand a quote for a single premium immediate lifetime annuity with a death benefit, and compare it to the other options. The monthly income for the single premium life annuity should be your base number, as it’s one of the simplest annuities out there. As the agent starts to add "smoke and mirrors" to the equation with additional features, compare the payout to your original single premium immediate lifetime annuity.
Tip No. 9 – Compare one annuity feature at a time. Don't let the agent bamboozle you with multiple new features at once. If he wants to sell you an inflation rider, a death benefit, and a ramp-up period, don't compare this annuity to the basic one.