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I Hate Annuities (But I Love Pensions)

Steve Powers

After nearly 15 years as a financial advisor, I’ve come to accept that every prospective client who contacts me is like a snowflake: no two are ever identical.  While this is true, it is also true that there are many similarities between snowflakes and prospective clients, and one of those similarities is that many profess to not being fans of annuities.  Fair enough.

Recently, a CPA referred a gentleman to me who has spent nearly 30 years working for a large manufacturing company.  And he’s been quite successful, accumulating around $1 million in his retirement plan.  And, like many people who’ve enjoyed similar success, he’s done it “his” way, which I respect immensely.

As part of first meeting, I really wanted to gain insight into him, his concerns, his investment experiences, his likes and dislikes, and every other issue that would allow me to help him to the very best of my ability.  One of the questions I asked him was “Are there any investments or strategies that you would oppose?”  His response was quick and decisive: “Annuities.”

It’s not the first time I’ve heard this response, so I proceeded to ask him why.  He answered, “They’re just not good investments.  They’re expensive to own.  They are only good for the insurance company.  I just don’t like them.”  A couple of things were clear.  First, I appreciated that he had strong opinions.  And, second, he probably had never truly been educated about how some annuities work.  While his objections may have had some truth to them, every pancake–no matter how flat–has two sides.

As our discussion progressed, we came to a point where I was able to ask him an important question about his retirement income.  “Don, do you have a pension?”

He responded, “Yes.”

I continued, “Tell me a little bit about it.”

Said Don, “Well, I’m going to be getting just about $2,300 a month if I take it only for my life, but there’s an option I can choose that will also protect my wife should I pass away before she does, which is likely because I’m three years older than she is.”

“How do you feel about that?” I asked.

“I absolutely love it,” replied Don.

“Why?” I queried.

“Because it’s guaranteed and I never have to worry about running out of that portion of my income,” he said.  “In fact, I wish that my pension was enough to cover all of my living expenses!”

At this point, it became obvious to me that Don, like so many others who’ve walked through my door, had the same basic concern: security.  And, also like many others, he was fantastic at accumulating a retirement nest egg, but was not nearly as informed about how to create sustainable, predictable income during retirement.

Why?  Because, although he had convincingly expressed his disdain for annuities, had gone on to specifically say that he wanted, very much, exactly what some annuities provide: sustainable, predictable, lifetime income.

It’s during moments of realization like this that I remind myself why the job I do is so important.  Through education, cooperation and good planning, we are oftentimes able to help folks like Don put together  a plan that alleviates their fears and concerns, so that they can focus on exactly what retirement should be about: living.

About the Author:

Steve Powers has spent the past decade and a half educating his clients about all aspects of planning for retirement.  He promises never to speak to you in using “financial jargon” and will spend as much time helping you understand your options as you need in order to be comfortable.

The easiest way to get help is to schedule a confidential and complimentary introductory phone call or meeting by visiting Steve’s website – His advice and guidance is best suited for those ages 55 and up, who live in the greater Minneapolis area, or those who are comfortable using technology to conduct meetings.


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