Finding the Highest-Paying Annuity

The easiest, surest way to increase your retirement income is to shop for annuities just as you would for anything else. Few retirees or prospective retirees do this, but I’ve shown over the years shopping will increase income.

Insurers and other annuity payers use different assumptions to determine their payouts. They consider estimated investment returns (and recent investment results), their own life expectancy estimates, and their annual expenses and desired profit margin. Each of these factors varies between insurers. Many insurers count on consumers not to shop around for the best annuity payouts and select payouts that give them a big cushion in case their estimates are wrong.

Of course, you don’t want to consider only the payout from an annuity. Financial stability also is a key consideration. A high payout doesn’t do you much good if the insurer eventually has financial problems and has to reduce or eliminate your payout. A good general rule, in fact, is to ignore the insurers with the highest payouts. Insurers with better financial positions can pay less because of the increased security they offer. They also have more financial security because they are more careful about setting their payout levels. I recommend you consider only insurers with the higher grades from the insurer rating firms.

An easy way to shop for annuities is to visit web sites, such as Type in your age, state of residence, and the amount you want to invest in an annuity. After providing some personal information, you’ll receive a report showing the payouts you’d receive from different insurers.

Consider a male aged 60 who wants to put $100,000 in an annuity that will pay monthly income for life with no guaranteed payout period and no payouts to beneficiaries. From 13 insurers checked by, the highest monthly payout recently was $589 monthly from Presidential Life Ins. Co. and the lowest was $533 from Midland National. The $56 difference may not seem like much, but it is 10.51% more per month, every month for life. It comes to $672 annually — more than one month’s payout.

This example considers only insurers with the higher safety ratings. If you are willing to consider insurers with lower financial ratings, the difference is greater. Often there is a payout difference of 20% or more between the highest and lowest payouts.

There used to be an excuse for not shopping around, because it took a lot of work and involve talking with a lot of insurance agents and brokers. The web makes it easy these days, so there’s no excuse. Shop around before buying an annuity. If your retirement plan offers an annuity, compare it to commercial annuities before deciding. You can use your retirement account to purchase a commercial annuity or roll over the account to an IRA and purchase an annuity with the IRA.