DeVol Insurance & Financial Services
Winter 2016  

What is an Annuity?

The Basic Idea

Annuities, like life insurance, are founded on the unpredictability of human life. Consider the following from UCLA Professor Shlomo Benartzi: 10 of your high school friends retire at 65. The likely first death will be at 69, and the last at 99 -- a thirty year gap!

You could save enough money to provide yourself with an income to last until age 99, but that will be a waste of resources if you die earlier. On the other hand, you could save a smaller amount, but you would run out of money if you lived to 99. An annuity solves this problem. It provides income in a very precise amount by taking from those who die early to pay those who die later. Thus, it provides you with an income for the rest of your life and stops only upon your death.

Someone once expressed it this way: with life insurance you bet against yourself (your longevity) -- if you die soon you (really your beneficiaries) win the bet; if you live long you lose. With annuities, you bet in favor of yourself (your longevity) -- if you die soon, you lose the bet. If you live long, you win. Thus, the phrase "annuitants live longer," either to get the next check, or due to their superior health because they worry less.

The Variations -- Fixed Annuities 
The Pure Annuity
You will notice that under the basic idea, when you die after receiving all that income, there is nothing left for your beneficiaries. For example, say you give an insurance company $100,000 for an annuity that pays $10,000/year, and you die at the end of one year. You will have spent 100K and received only 10K. This is a pure annuity.

Period Certain
Insurance companies have various alternative arrangements, called by the awkward phrase "Period Certain." For example, with a 20-year Period Certain, the company will pay the benefit to you for your life, or your surviving beneficiaries if you die during the next 20 years, and then stop. However, in that case, instead of receiving the $10,000/year in the earlier example, you'll receive a lesser amount, like $8,000/year.

Deferred Annuity
Most annuities sold today are a deferred annuity. In this case, you put money into a contract and it grows without tax -- the taxes are deferred until you take the money out. At that time you can simply take a withdrawal, or you can annuitize it, which means converting it into either a pure annuity or a period certain annuity.

Immediate Annuity
Here you begin to receive an income stream immediately, either as a pure annuity or period certain.

Deferred Immediate Annuity (DIA)
This is a somewhat newer product and I think it is very intriguing. A major problem we face as we plan retirement is that we will outlive the resources. Another way of saying this is that we live too long. This product is pure insurance against living too long. For example, you buy this when you are 65, and it begins paying for the rest of your life when you are 85.

Qualified Life Annuity Contract (QLAC)
This is a type of DIA, introduced in 2014, with a specific tax advantage. As you know, you must take distributions from your IRAs and qualified plans at age 70 1/2, and pay taxes on them. This is often undesirable for folks who may not need or want the income at age 70. This is especially true today when more and more people work into their seventies. With a QLAC, the IRS will allow you to defer up to 125K or 25% of the account, into a DIA. So instead of paying taxes on income unnecessarily, you defer the income until you need it, for example, at age 85. This is a new and potentially exciting development in the retirement income planning field.

I hope this helps!

This is for informational purpose only and should not be construed as tax or legal advice. Consult your tax or legal advisor regarding your specific situation. 
Fixed Annuities guarantee a minimum interest rate on all or a percentage of each contribution over the life of the contract less any withdrawals and/or deductions and early surrender charges.
  • Unlike CDs fixed annuities are not insured by the FDIC.
  • Some fixed annuities come with high guaranteed interest rates that can decrease after a set number of years to a much lower minimum interest rate determined by law.
  • The principal guarantee and income for life guarantee features of fixed annuities are subject to the claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company.
  • If you take an early distribution from an annuity you may be subject to a surrender charge which could result in a loss of principal. You may also be subject to a tax penalty if you make a withdrawal before age 59 1/2.

Articles for Further Study ... 
 Immediate Annuities I

Did You Know?

88% of people 65-74 are healthy enough to work, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. That's the best way to help provide for a secure retirement.


Thomas Phelps DeVol is the founder of DeVol Insurance & Financial Services. He enjoys helping people transform their hopes about the future into attainable retirement plans. His persistence, know-how and diligence are the keys to his success -- and that of his clients.

Tom has three children and lives with his wife, Connie, and their two younger children in Newton, Massachusetts. He enjoys gardening, tennis, biking and opera.


Tom can be reached at 617-964-6404 or via email.  

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Securities offered through Parkland Securities, LLC. Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Sigma Planning Corporation, a registered investment advisor. DeVol Insurance & Financial Services is independent of Parkland Securities, LLC and SPC.