If you are looking for a steady stream of income in retirement, an immediate fixed annuity may be the answer. An immediate fixed annuity isn't flashy and doesn't promise big gains, but with the stock market so uncertain, sometimes steady is better.
When you purchase an immediate fixed annuity you give a lump sum to an insurance company. The insurance company then pays you a set amount each month for the rest of your life. There are several different types of annuities, but the immediate fixed annuity has two key elements. The annuity is immediate -- meaning the insurance company starts making payments right away. This is in contrast to a deferred annuity, which begins making payments at a later date. In addition, the annuity is fixed. Unlike a variable annuity, which can fluctuate with the stock market, the amount you get with a fixed annuity stays the same each month. It is sort of like having your own personal pension plan.
The benefit of an immediate fixed annuity is a steady stream of income for life. This can be helpful if payments from Social Security and your pension or 401(k) don't cover your needs. Immediate annuities can also be used to make up missed income if you retire early.
Immediate annuities are also useful for Medicaid planning. Purchasing an immediate annuity is a way for people with assets in excess of Medicaid's limits to turn the assets into an income stream while avoiding a penalty for transferring the assets. For more information, click here.
Immediate fixed annuities do have some downsides and are not for everyone. First. you must have accumulated some savings to use for the annuity premium payment. Another issue is that payments are not adjusted for inflation, so over time the money you receive is not worth as much. In addition, the money in the annuity is not liquid, so if you need a large sum of money for a medical or other emergency, it will not be available. Because of the lack of liquidity, experts advise putting not more than 20 to 30 percent of your assets into a fixed annuity.
If you are planning on purchasing an immediate fixed annuity, be wary of sales agents who try to convince you to purchase a variable annuity. Many companies have come under scrutiny for unscrupulous sales tactics with regard to annuities. In addition, because the payments are meant to last a lifetime, you want to be sure the insurance company you pick will still be around. Make certain that the insurer is rated in the top two categories by one of the services that rates insurance companies, such as A.M. Best, Moodys, Standard & Poor's, or Weiss.
A qualified elder law attorney can help you decide whether an immediate fixed annuity is appropriate for your situation. To find a qualified attorney near you, click here.
For more information on retirement planning, click here.