Index annuity guide


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Index annuity guide

  1. 1. Index Annuity Guide By The Annuity Report 2011
  2. 2. In this report we’ll explore the inner-workings of index annuities in simple terms.Generally speaking, advisors who consider index annuities complicated have justbeen too lazy to do research and develop a fact-based understanding of theproduct. I know because that used to be me.Index annuities are not complicated, especially when compared to many of thefutures, derivatives and options contracts available to investors. It should beeasy for you to gain a firm knowledge of index annuities and apply that toindividual products when you decide to buy one. Let’s get started…How Do Index Annuities Work?Index annuities are nothing more than fixed annuities with a different method ofcrediting interest. With a fixed annuity, the contract owner receives a stated rateof interest each year. With an index annuity, the stated rate is calculated basedon growth in an outside market index. If the index goes up, the contract makesmoney but if the index goes down, the principle is protected and the contractdoes not lose value.Index annuities give consumers partial participation in the equity markets inexchange for principle guarantees. Annuity owners will not lose money no matterhow bad the market performs. It is a place for safe money.Now that’s all well and good in theoretical terms but how can insurancecompanies make that work? It only makes sense after you think about it a while.Let’s start with the structure of a fixed annuity as that is easy to understand.When you purchase a fixed annuity, you give the insurance company yourpremium and they essentially invest it in bonds.Whatever return the bond portfolio generates, less company operating expenses,equals the interest credit rate available for the annuity contract. The insurancecompany has all this calculated ahead of time and makes the fixed interest rateoffer accordingly.As an example, let’s assume an insurance company can make 6% return oninvestment and that annual operating expenses are 2%. This is fairly accurateand representative of today’s market. In this case, a fixed annuity will be
  3. 3. credited with 4% interest.It works the same way with an index annuity where the insurance companyinvests the principal in the same type of bonds. But with an indexed annuity, youhave two basic options with the interest income. You can elect to take the baseinterest rate (which is roughly equivalent to what a fixed annuity would pay) oryou can opt for the possibility of more growth.If you opt for more growth, the company will instead use the interest earned fromthe bond portfolio to purchase an option position in a market index. An option issimply the right- but not the obligation- to purchase securities at a future date fora contractually stated price. If the market goes up, the company will exercise theoption and credit the gain on that option contract to your annuity contract basedon the gain. If the market moves sideways or down, the option expires worthlessand no interest – or gain- is available for crediting.Because the money that the underlying bond portfolio earned from its holdings ofcorporate bonds was spent on the option, the account earns nothing, but still,your principal is safe and nothing is lost.This is really important- your principal is not at risk- only the earnings from yourprincipal are invested in potentially high yield options. Thus, an indexed annuityis a safe asset with upside potential.