The Biden admin is tackling some of the changes made during Trump's administration, particularly to environmental social governance, fair lending, and consumer protection rules. The administration will not allow a set of measures that disincentivize ESG factors by shareholder voting restrictions. They have also reinstated the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s ability to seek monetary penalties for abusive practices and expanded the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to gender and sexual orientation protection. Finally, the administration reinforced the SEC’s ability to investigate and subpoena companies and individuals for investigation. These measures are just some of the ways the new administration is changing the regulatory landscape.
FINSUM: These regulations could have a profound impact on companies in the near and long term. One result is more definite, that this is just one more of many ways that the Biden Admin is incentivizing ESG.
Retirement has never been so insecure. Part of the appeal of annuities has been as a strategy to offset the decline in pensions. Yet, if you dig deeper there is another good utility for annuities that some retirees and pre-retirees are using: as a bridge to getting social security. Many lower income retirees hit a wall where they only have tens of thousands to low hundreds of thousands of dollars when they turn 60. The issue is that if the claim Social Security early, they can grossly lower their income versus waiting a few years. Given that the average 60 year-old male right now is expected to live to 88, the difference of $500 a month really adds up. Accordingly, in this situation an annuity—such as an immediate annuity—can work very well, as it buys time for retirees to defer taking Social Security.
FINSUM: This strategy can make a ton of sense, but it takes some convincing as most retirees don’t want to part with their money even if they know it will give them more security.
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Data from 2020 is in and it is clear: annuities are increasingly popular among advisors, and we mean that in the strictest sense of “advisors”. Annuities sales have not just grown with broker-dealers, but also with RIAs. For many years RIAs shunned annuities, but recently two major changes have made RIAs warm to them. Firstly, annuities compensation has become more aligned with RIA pay models, and secondly, with so many clients retiring in a period of high volatility, there is a greater need than ever before. According to David Lau, CEO of DPL Financial, “RIAs historically have used mostly investment-only variable annuities with the occasional single-premium immediate annuity mixed in, and that is because annuities until recently haven’t been built to fit into their business model. He continued “One of the things that’s misunderstood about annuities is that in a low-interest-rate environment, it’s something you may not want to consider … In today’s market with interest rates where they are, it is about 41% more expensive to fund retirement income using a bond portfolio than it is using an annuity.”
FINSUM: That last quote about the affordability of annuities is a really key point. Annuities can play an important role in a portfolio more cheaply than most instruments right now, and do so with less risk.
Annuities have had a good 12 months and it is starting to seem like they are entering a golden age. Not only are the country’s demographics trending in favor of annuities, but the last year’s volatility and the recent rule change allowing annuities into 401(k)s are big tailwinds. Another big trend which helps is that since more and more companies are opting to offer 401(k) programs instead of DB plans, then people are ever more in need of guaranteed income. According to AIG, “It’s less about the vehicle. More plan sponsors and participants need to get comfortable with the creation of income … The only way to get guaranteed income is to annuitize retirement benefits. The question then is will annuities be offered in-plan or out-of-plan”.
FINSUM: The market and regulatory context are becoming better and better for utilizing annuities for clients. It might be time to think about these options if you aren’t already.
Interest rates are still very low. So low that retirees are being starved of income. With that in mind, some are employing annuities in unique ways to help increase interest income. In particular, one strategy being employed for older investors who want to boost income in the “safety” portion of their portfolio is to use multi-year guaranteed annuities (MYGAs) to boost interest income. MYGAs typically pay well in excess of what CDs and other cash management products pay. This is because the insurer behind the annuity can invest the capital in a diversified portfolio, including longer-term holdings. MYGAs are not FDIC insured like CDs, but they do come with contractual guarantees and are often from companies with great credit ratings.
FINSUM: This is a very good strategy for certain investors who can afford to tie up capital in an annuity and are looking for ultra-safe but above-market interest income relative to similar instruments.