Yield Curve & Annuity Rates

The yield curve is a visual depiction of interest rates at a specific point in time. Points plotted on a graph represent the return from fixed income instruments, namely bonds, of various maturities — from a few months to 30 years into the future.

Brandon Renfro, Ph.D., CFP®, RICP®, EA, Annuity.org expert contributor
  • Written By
    Brandon Renfro, Ph.D., CFP®, RICP®, EA

    Brandon Renfro, Ph.D., CFP®, RICP®, EA

    Co-Owner of Belonging Wealth Management

    As a Certified Financial Planner™ professional and Retired Income Certified Professional®, Brandon Renfro is well-versed in the financial information and strategies needed to meet retirement goals. In addition to co-owning Belonging Wealth Management and assisting clients, Brandon writes regularly for financial publications.

    Read More
  • Edited By
    Michael Santiago
    Headshot of Michael Santiago, senior editor for Annuity.org

    Michael Santiago

    Senior Financial Editor

    Michael Santiago is a skilled writer and editor with over a decade of experience in various industries. As a senior financial editor, he collaborates with a team of experts to develop compelling and accurate content.

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  • Financially Reviewed By
    Thomas J. Brock, CFA®, CPA
    headshot of Thomas J. Brock, CFA, CPA

    Thomas J. Brock, CFA®, CPA

    Investment, Corporate Finance and Accounting Professional

    Thomas Brock, CFA®, CPA, is a financial professional with over 20 years of experience in investments, corporate finance and accounting. He currently oversees the investment operation for a $4 billion super-regional insurance carrier.

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  • Updated: November 17, 2023
  • 4 min read time
  • This page features 10 Cited Research Articles

Key Takeaways

  • The yield curve visualizes current interest rates, aiding analysts and investors in portfolio decisions and impacting annuities.
  • Interest rate changes, as reflected in the yield curve, affect bond prices, while annuities offer stability unaffected by market fluctuations.
  • Annuities can be a reliable option for retirement income, considering their stable payouts and risk-pooling advantages.

Analysts and investors use the yield curve to help them make more informed decisions about the portfolios they manage. The yield curve also has an important effect on annuities.

How Yield Curve Impacts Annuity Interest Rates

While the yield curve can indicate what the broad markets expect about the future of interest rates, what is more important in the context of long-term financial planning is how changes in interest rates might affect one’s investments and the ability to generate income in retirement.

At any given moment, both newly issued bonds and new annuity contracts will offer interest rates that take their cue from their respective plot on the yield curve. The difference is that fixed annuities are not marketable securities but contracts between a buyer and an issuer.

That means that after you purchase them, they are not subject to market fluctuations the way bonds are. Your annuity will continue to be paid according to the terms of the contract regardless of how interest rates change.

Note that variable annuities, on the other hand, are securities and will lose value if the market declines.

Annuity payouts are also typically higher than bond payouts. This is partly because they are less liquid than bonds — the tradeoff for the higher rate. They also benefit from risk pooling, which isn’t a feature of bonds.

In the case of nonqualified annuities, only a portion of annuity distributions are taxable.

Annuities aren’t the right choice for everyone. While they offer slightly higher payouts, their rates closely align with the current yield curve for fixed-income securities of equal quality. 

Bond prices move in inverse relation to interest rates. If interest rates rise, bond prices will fall. When interest rates decline, bond prices rise. While bonds held to term will always return their face value and earn the yield to maturity at the time you purchased them, selling prior to maturity exposes an investor to the potential risk of loss.

An individual investor looking to generate retirement income might opt for bonds. However, those who are concerned about the potential fluctuations in the market value of their bond holdings should be aware that as interest rates change, the value of their investments will also change. In contrast, individuals who buy annuities do not face this particular risk.

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Should Investors Be Concerned About the Yield Curve?

Wall Street uses many sophisticated tools to guide decisions. Yet, as a practical matter, the slope of the yield curve shouldn’t be a big concern to individual investors regarding their long-term financial planning.

The reason for this is that the credit market — like the stock market — is constantly changing. And making decisions based on a belief that one can predict those changes isn’t practical. It makes more sense to consider one’s goals than to ruminate over a possible change in interest rates.

A better strategy would be to consider the role that annuities can play in generating retirement income and including them to fill gaps or optimize Social Security benefits. Laddering can yield a blended rate of return, allowing you to achieve future objectives, irrespective of the current shape of the yield curve.

During periods of instability and uncertainty, which often precede recessions, shorter-term rates can exceed longer-term CD rates – a phenomenon known as a yield curve inversion.

Frequently Asked Questions About Annuities & the Yield Curve

How does the yield curve impact annuities?

The yield curve affects annuities by influencing their interest rates. Rising interest rates can lead to higher annuity payouts, while falling rates may reduce annuity income, making it essential to consider the yield curve when planning for annuities.

Are annuities affected by changes in the yield curve?

Yes, annuities, especially fixed-rate ones, can be influenced by yield curve shifts. Their rates often align with market rates. However, once you buy a fixed-rate annuity, your payout remains steady as per the contract, regardless of yield curve changes.

Should I consider annuities when the yield curve is steep or flat?

Your decision to consider annuities shouldn’t hinge solely on the yield curve’s shape. Instead, focus on your long-term financial goals and risk tolerance. Annuities offer stability and guaranteed income, making them suitable for many investors, regardless of the yield curve’s shape. Consult a financial advisor for personalized guidance.

Please seek the advice of a qualified professional before making financial decisions.
Last Modified: November 17, 2023
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