The White House last week strongly endorsed annuities as a needed but missing piece of Americans’ retirement plans. Insurance companies and annuity trade groups had something nice to say about Washington regulators for a change. And the new rules just might set in motion some interesting retirement-plan changes.[See Where Smart Investors Put Their Money.]
Among financial products, annuities have long been a very hard sell. It’s easy to understand the appeal of buying Apple stock or getting in on the ground floor of Facebook’s IPO. Understanding annuities and their benefits, however, is not on the minds of many investors.
The premise of an annuity is easy to state: Give some money to an insurance company and it will make guaranteed payments to you for the rest of your life. The money can be paid now or in the future. The payments can begin at any time the investor chooses. And the lifetime stream of income promised by an annuity can augment Social Security and help put to rest a person’s fear that he or she will run out of money before they die.
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