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How to Cite Annuity.org's Article

APA Brock, T. J. (2021, November 1). Comparing Different Types of Indexed Annuities. Annuity.org. Retrieved December 8, 2021, from https://www.annuity.org/annuities/types/indexed/compare/

MLA Brock, Thomas J. "Comparing Different Types of Indexed Annuities." Annuity.org, 1 Nov 2021, https://www.annuity.org/annuities/types/indexed/compare/.

Chicago Brock, Thomas J. "Comparing Different Types of Indexed Annuities." Annuity.org. Last modified November 1, 2021. https://www.annuity.org/annuities/types/indexed/compare/.

What Is an Indexed Annuity?

An indexed annuity, commonly referred to as a ratchet annuity, is a financial contract issued by an insurance company to an individual looking to save for retirement.

In exchange for an upfront payment, the insurer provides the individual, or annuitant, the opportunity to grow his money based on the performance of a stated index, such as the Russell 3000. The insurer also provides downside protection, guaranteeing a minimum rate of return, which will never be less than zero.

Generally, an indexed annuity consists of two phases:
  • An accumulation period where the insurer invests the money paid by the annuitant
  • A payout period where the annuitant receives a steady stream of income from the insurer (the index component provides upside potential above a minimum guaranteed level)

Indexed Annuity Features

Beyond the basic design outlined above, indexed annuities can be structured with a variety of features. We explore the most common parts below.

Minimum Rate

A minimum rate is the guaranteed rate you’ll earn when the index performs poorly. For example, with a minimum annual rate of 1 percent, you can count on this return, whether the index stays flat or decreases significantly in a given year.

Cap Rate

A cap rate is the maximum rate of interest the annuity can earn during a measurement period. For example, an annual cap rate of 6 percent limits upside performance to 6 percent per year. If the index increases by 8 percent, you will only get a 6 percent credit.

Participation Rate

A participation rate spells out the percentage of the index increase you can earn. For example, given a participation rate of 75 percent and a 6 percent increase in the index, your gain will be limited to 4 percent (75% × 6% = 4%).

Spread Rate

A spread rate is a fixed percentage that is deducted from any increase in the index. For example, a spread rate of 3 percent will reduce your gain on a 6 percent increase in the index to 3 percent (6% – 3% = 3%). If the index increases by 3 percent or less, your gain will be the greater of the minimum guaranteed rate or zero.

Crediting Method

The crediting method defines how interest is calculated for a measurement period. Oftentimes, you have the ability to select a preferred crediting method.

Widely used methods include:
Annual Point-to-point
Interest is credited based on the difference between the beginning and ending value of the index over a one-year period. Negative changes do not reduce the annuity value.
Biennial Point-to-point
Interest is credited based on the difference between the beginning and ending value of the index over a two-year period. Negative changes do not reduce the annuity value.
Monthly Point-to-point Average (Annual Period)
Interest is credited based on the average value of the index over 12 consecutive month-end periods. It works by summing the month-end values and dividing by 12. So, if the index started the year at 1,000 and the average monthly value was 1,100, the monthly point-to-point average would be 10 percent (1,100 ÷ 1,000 – 1 = .10).
Monthly Sum (Annual Period)
Interest is credited based on the on the sum of the index returns for 12 consecutive months. If the total return, adjusted for any limits, is greater than the guaranteed minimum, the interest is credited to the account. If the adjusted return is less than the guarantee, the minimum rate is applied.
Monthly High Water Mark (Annual Lookback Period)
Interest is credited based on the highest month-end value reached during a 12-month measurement period versus the beginning value. For example, assume the index started the year at 1,000 and ended at 800, but its highest month-end value was 1,200. In this case, the high water mark is 1,200. So, the interest credit will be 20 percent (1,200 ÷ 1,000 = .20), subject to any limits.

How Do the Various Indexed Annuity Structures Work?

Now that we have a basic understanding of indexed annuities and their features, let’s take a closer look at how they’re structured and how they work. The possibilities are endless, but most contracts include some combination of cap, participation and spread features, along with a range of crediting options.

Illustrations of three possible structures and their performances for 2018, 2019 and 2020 are below. For each annuity:

  • The starting value is $100,000 as of January 1, 2018.
  • Performance is tied to the Russell 3000; interest is credited once per year on January 1.
  • The minimum annual rate is 1 percent.

The Russell 3000 monthly performance data is below.

2018 Calendar Year

Month EndedBeginning ValueEnding Value% Return
01/31/181,664.681,600.15-3.9%
02/28/181,600.151,565.56-2.2%
03/31/181,565.561,569.910.3%
04/30/181,569.911,610.672.6%
05/31/181,610.671,618.990.5%
06/30/181,618.991,670.963.2%
07/31/181,670.961,726.093.3%
08/31/181,726.091,726.52*0.0%
09/30/181,726.521,597.71-7.5%
10/31/181,597.711,625.991.8%
11/30/181,625.991,472.14-9.5%
12/31/181,472.141,596.548.5%
SUM-2.8%
* Note: each year's high water mark is denoted by an asterisk.

2019 Calendar Year

Month EndedBeginning ValueEnding Value% Return
01/31/191,596.541,649.223.3%
02/28/191,649.221,660.030.7%
03/31/191,660.031,734.714.5%
04/30/191,734.711,619.72-6.6%
05/31/191,619.721,730.906.9%
06/30/191,730.901,754.651.4%
07/31/191,754.651,715.24-2.2%
08/31/191,715.241,742.701.6%
09/30/191,742.701,778.202.0%
10/31/191,778.201,842.053.6%
11/30/191,842.051,892.25*2.7%
12/31/191,892.251,888.03-0.2%
SUM17.5%
* Note: each year's high water mark is denoted by an asterisk.

2020 Calendar Year

Month EndedBeginning ValueEnding Value% Return
01/31/201,888.031,730.318.4%
02/28/201,730.311,489.57-13.9%
03/31/201,489.571,684.9513.1%
04/30/201,684.951,771.375.1%
05/31/201,771.371,809.252.1%
06/30/201,809.251,909.895.6%
07/31/201,909.892,045.017.1%
08/31/202,045.011,968.09-3.8%
09/30/201,968.091,923.70-2.3%
10/31/201,923.702,154.2912.0%
11/30/202,154.292,248.44*4.4%
12/31/202,248.442,236.37-0.5%
SUM20.6%
* Note: each year's high water mark is denoted by an asterisk.

Annual Point-to-point Crediting with 75% Participation Rate

Annual Credit:
GREATER OF (Ending Year Value ÷ Beginning Year Value – 1) × .75 OR 1.0%

2018:
(1,596.54 ÷ 1,664.68 – 1) × .75 = -3.1%
Since the crediting rate is negative, the minimum rate of 1.0% is earned.

2019:
(1,888.03 ÷ 1,596.54 – 1) × .75 = 13.7%

2020:
(2,236.37 ÷ 1,888.03 – 1) × .75 = 13.8%

Ending Annuity Value:
Beginning Value × (1 + 2018 Credit) × (1 + 2019 Credit) × (1 + 2020 Credit)

Ending Annuity Value:
$100,000 x 1.01 x 1.137 x 1.138 = $130,685

Monthly Sum Crediting with 100% Participation Rate and 3% Spread Rate

Annual Credit:
GREATER OF (Sum of 12 Months of Returns) × 1.0 – 3.0% OR 1.0%

2018:
-2.8% × 1.00 – 3.0% = -5.8%
Since the crediting rate is negative, the minimum rate of 1.0% is earned.

2019:
17.5% × 1.00 – 3.0% = 14.5%

2020:
20.6% × 1.00 – 3.0% = 17.6%

Ending Annuity Value:
Beginning Value × (1 + 2018 Credit) × (1 + 2019 Credit) × (1 + 2020 Credit)

Ending Annuity Value:
$100,000 x 1.01 x 1.145 x 1.176 = $135,999

Monthly High Water Mark (Annual Lookback Period) with 100% Participation and 15% Cap Rate

Annual Credit:
GREATER OF (Highest Month-end Value ÷ Beginning Year Value – 1) × 1.00 OR 1.0% OR 15.0%

2018:
(1,726.52 ÷ 1,664.68 – 1) × 1.00 = 3.7%

2019:
(1,892.25 ÷ 1,596.54 – 1) × 1.00 = 18.5%
Since the crediting rate exceeds the cap, the maximum rate of 15.0% is earned.

2020:
(2,248.44 ÷ 1,888.03 – 1) × 1.00 = 19.1%
Since the crediting rate exceeds the cap, the maximum rate of 15.0% is earned.

Ending Annuity Value:
Beginning Value × (1 + 2018 Credit) × (1 + 2019 Credit) × (1 + 2020 Credit)

Ending Annuity Value:
$100,000 x 1.037 x 1.150 x 1.150 = $137,143

Please seek the advice of a qualified professional before making financial decisions.
Last Modified: November 1, 2021

1 Cited Research Article

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  1. FTSE Russell. (n.d.). Russell 3000 Index Fact Sheet. Retrieved from https://research.ftserussell.com/Analytics/FactSheets/temp/abc7643c-7e48-4eb7-ac68-f4bc0eaa361b.pdf