Even if you aren’t sure what a retirement annuity is, this financial vehicle could make the difference between living a stress-free retirement or worrying day in and day out about whether you’ll run out of income when you still need it in the future.
Retirement annuities have become quite popular over the past decade or so. One reason for this is because most employers have done away with the traditional defined benefit pension plan. So, while there are still defined contribution options available – such as the 401(k) – not all employers offer these savings vehicles. In addition, these “traditional” retirement savings plans won’t ensure that you’ll have a sure and steady income stream for life.
But a retirement annuity can!
When it comes to accessing funds from a retirement annuity, there are some key differences between an RA and a pension fund. First, an RA participant can only retire from their retirement annuity once they have reached the age of 55 (although there is one exception here in that he or she may retire earlier if they are in poor health).
Another key difference between retirement annuities and pension funds is that the annuity is a personal retirement savings vehicle, whereby a pension fund is handled through one’s employer.
With that in mind, individuals may have a bit of added flexibility when participating in a retirement annuity. For example, an RA can be “paid up,” meaning that the participant no longer needs to make monthly contributions. (The participant will, however, have to remain invested until they are ready to retire at age 55 or over).
Also, once an RA participant retires, they can take up to one-third of the cash in the retirement annuity as a lump sum. The other two-thirds of the RA funds, however, must go into a compulsory annuity.
Similar to the tax deduction on RA contributions, if you are invested in more than one retirement annuity, the one-third/two-thirds withdrawal limitation will apply to all of the account balances in total. However, if you have multiple RAs in different RA funds, then the annuitization requirement will be applied to each of the retirement annuities individually.
While traditional pension funds may continue paying out benefits to a spouse upon the plan participant’s passing, in the case of retirement annuities, the RA benefit will be allocated by the fund trustees in accordance with the rules set out in the Pension Funds Act.
In this case, the trustees are required to consider all of the deceased participant’s dependents. In order to ensure that all such participants are included in this consideration, it is beneficial for the plan participant to list all of his or her dependents on a beneficiary form.
If this is not done – or if the RA participant has no financial dependents – then the funds from the retirement annuity will instead fall into the estate and will be distributed according to the participant’s will.
With regard to the taxation of these benefits, any lump sum payment that is received upon the participant’s passing will be taxed as a retirement benefit, as though it had been received by the investor before his or her passing.
Participating in a retirement annuity can allow you the income security of a defined benefit pension plan, even if your employer does not offer one. But because not all retirement annuities are the same, it is essential that you have a good understanding of how the plans operate, and how they may be beneficial for you.
For instance, there are two primary types of retirement annuities. These include the more “traditional” plan that is offered by the large insurance companies, and alternatively, the “new generation” unit trust based RA that is offered via asset management companies.
With the former, it is required that participants enter into a long-term contract that specifies how much they must save, as well as for how long. If needs happen to change, though, breaking the terms of this type of RA contract will accelerate up-front expenses – such as commissions – and/or early withdrawal, or surrender, charges.
Depending on when the retirement annuity was initially entered into, these fees could be as much as 30% of the account value. Plus, surrender fees may also be incurred if the participant simply transfers his or her RA to another carrier.
The second type or RA – the “new generation” plans that are more unit trust based – are typically much more flexible than the former. For instance, with these retirement annuity plans, the participant is allowed to decrease – or even cancel – his or her contributions at any time. Likewise, they may even opt to take a “break” from contributing and pick back up at a later time.
Because the newer generation retirement annuities do not have to be purchased through a broker, the costs can be quite a bit lower, as participants may simply purchase the annuity directly through the money manager.
If you’re researching annuities or need help understanding an annuity contract, feel free to reach out to us and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction.
While retirement annuities can certainly offer some nice benefits, these financial vehicles are not right for everyone. So, should you consider one?
The answer is, it depends.
But a retirement annuity could be a good option for you if you are:
Over time, as the responsibility of ensuring retirement income has shifted from employers and governments to individuals, investors will need to be mindful of their options – particularly in light of longevity and keeping income flowing for an indefinite amount of time.
Knowing what a retirement annuity is can help individuals to ensure that income will continue to flow in – even if they are not a participant in an employer-sponsored plan. But retirement annuities come with a fair amount of fine print. So, it is essential to understand the do’s and don’ts before you lock into a long-term financial commitment.
At Sooner Retirement, our focus is on making sure that consumers are educated about annuities and retirement income strategies. Our team of annuity specialists can help to walk you through the options that are right for you, depending on your specific short and long-term financial objectives.
If you’d like more information regarding retirement planning, we’d be happy to help. You can reach out to us directly via phone at (918) 938-7734, or you can send us an email through our secure online contact form and set up a convenient time to chat with an annuity expert.
Knowing how annuities work, and what you can expect when you purchase one, can eliminate a whole host of worries and surprises in retirement. So, contact Sooner Retirement today. We look forward to talking with you.