Selling Your Retirement Annuity

Seniors who own annuities are faced with various pressing financial concerns. These retirement needs, which range from vacations to medical expenses, can be addressed by selling their annuity payments.

If you’re a careful financial planner, you likely purchased an annuity that will provide you a steady income stream in your golden years.

Once you begin retirement, however, the course of your life may change with increased medical costs, a tighter budget and lifestyle changes. You might lessen the financial burden of those events by tapping into savings tied to the annuity you intended to use for retirement.

You can sell some of those retirement annuity payments to pay for surgeries and hospital bills, avoid debt and cover costs during the golden years.

Life Is Full of Unexpected Changes

As we age, we are forced to face the reality that changes occur and finances must be continually re-evaluated. Planning for retirement is complicated. We place our money into various accounts and prepare a budget early on, but sometimes things don’t go as expected, and we panic. F;i A 2013 Actuarial Foundation survey showed the average age of a first-time annuity purchaser is 51. Unfortunately, when they reach retirement age, they could be faced with a crisis or unexpected major event they didn’t plan for 15 years earlier. Now they need quick access to funds sooner than expected.

The American Council of Life Insurers surveyed 460 annuity holders in 2003 and reported that more than one in four are worried they will be stuck with their annuity for life.

When you encounter one of these circumstances, you do not need to panic and feel stuck and barred from using your own money. Instead, you can take action and use payments from your retirement annuity.

Seniors and Medical Costs

Take a moment to examine your health, and see how it will affect your spending needs. Remember that as you live longer, there is a good chance that you might encounter illnesses or other expensive medical issues that will affect your retirement funds.

It’s also good advice to meet with your doctor so you can get a better idea of your current health and any possible medical problems you might encounter in the future.

A 2013 Fidelity Investments study shows older couples will spend an average of $220,000 on medical expenses during retirement. The age range in the study is 65 to 82 for men, and 65 to 85 for women. While you can set up a budget in advance, accidental falls, hip replacements and sudden illnesses are difficult to account for. Often, one health problem may exacerbate another, and what follows a hospital stay is a list of expenses for checkups and prescriptions.

Rather than using periodic annuity distributions to slowly decrease your medical debt or put off an emergency procedure until you have saved enough, you can take steps to resolve your problem now with a lump-sum payment.

Immediate Fixed Annuities vs. Variable Annuities with GLWB

There are two main types of annuities seniors may benefit from most — immediate fixed annuities and variable annuities with guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefits (GLWB). Both plans offer guaranteed income during retirement, however variable annuities with GLWB have the potential for growth.

Immediate fixed annuities are the most common type of annuity. In exchange for paying an insurance company a lump-sum upfront, the insurance company will pay the annuity holder monthly payments for the life of the plan. Alternatively, variable annuities with GLWB include an investment portfolio that help grow the annuity over time, from which the annuity holder may make withdrawals. The GLWB, which is a separate purchase from the variable annuity, gives you security in case the market isn’t performing well.

Selling Payments to Finance Your Retirement Needs

Getting a lump sum can provide relief for a number of financial dilemmas. Accessing money in your annuity can give you the retirement lifestyle you desire.

Avoid Carrying Debts into Retirement

Paying a mortgage can take up 20 to 30 percent of your income. Rather than slowly chipping away at your earnings, you can eliminate this expense by selling some of your annuity payments.

Reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey and the Federal Reserve show the percentage of homeowners making mortgage or home equity loan payments, between the ages of 65 and 74, increased from 21 percent to 37 percent. The percentage for those older than age 74 increased from 6 to 21 percent.

If you find yourself in that category, you can pay off your home — or a good chunk of it — by selling your annuity payments.

Pay for a Move

Many retirees face the decision of whether or not to move and leave the place they’ve lived for decades. It may be they have family they want to live near, a desire for a smaller and less expensive home, or the need for a home that requires less upkeep or does not have stairs.

Whatever the reason, the whole process often carries a large price tag—money that must be paid up front, even if it provides savings in the long run. Even a local move can be expensive. Once you add together the moving truck price, realtor costs and initial payments for electricity, water, cable and Internet, your budget takes a big hit.

Pay Surviving Spouse Expenses

The loss of a spouse is accompanied by a series of expenses: funeral, burial and probate costs. If there is not a set plan in place for these, the financial burden can be overwhelming. Again, an annuity could be a good source of funds.

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Avoid Annuity Scams

When you sell your annuity, there is some risk a dishonest annuity purchasing company could be looking to take advantage of you. This shouldn’t scare you away — instead, learn the signs of an annuity selling scam so you can avoid it and protect yourself.

Red flags that could indicate an annuity purchasing company scam include:

  • An offer that seems too good to be true
  • If the company is not registered or licensed with any professional organizations or has a low rating with the Better Business Bureau
  • Salespeople are pushy and rush you to make decisions
  • You are told that you must sell all of your annuity in its entirety

To protect yourself from an annuity scam:

  • Make sure the company you work with is accredited
  • Keep a record of every part of the selling process
  • Double check the numbers to make sure you received what you were promised
  • Sell only what you need to; you do not have to sell the annuity in its entirety
  • Ask a professional, like a lawyer, annuity broker or accountant, their opinion of the annuity purchasing company and to review all of the paperwork

Knowing When to Hold on to Your Annuity Payments

While selling annuity payments can be an excellent option for many seniors, you may want to consider holding onto your annuity payments before deciding to sell.

Some reasons to keep an annuity include:

  • Periodic annuity payments can subsidize the cost of long-term care. Assisted living facility payments can be conveniently deducted from annuity distributions.
  • If savings are extremely limited, a retiree may be dependent on annuity payments to handle monthly living costs.
  • The annuity holder may be able to negotiate a lower surrender charge when withdrawing money.
  • Some annuity holders may want to use their annuity as a form of inheritance for a surviving spouse or child.

It’s important to regularly reevaluate your retirement and financial status. At some point, it may become in your best interest to sell your annuity payments.

Other Reasons for Selling Annuity Payments

Seniors with annuities may decide to sell payments for reasons that are not huge crises or major moves. Rather, payments may be sold because annuity holders want to invest money in another interest.

Some alternative reasons to sell payments:

  • Realizing that purchasing an annuity was a mistake
  • Choosing another investment with higher returns
  • Taking alternative tax savings routes
  • Inheriting an annuity, when you already have savings
  • Having enough money for retirement from pension and Social Security
  • Putting money toward a small business
  • Unable to afford the annuity fees
  • Needing immediate liquidity

Page Sources

  1. The Actuarial Foundation. (2011, October 17). Getting ready to retire. Retrieved from http://www.actuarialfoundation.org//consumer/wiser.pdf
  2. CNBC. (2013, May 15). Health-care costs for retired couples drop by 8 percent. Retrieved from http://www.cnbc.com/id/100739886
  3. Lambert, G. (2007, December 12). Break out of the annuity prison. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/2007/12/12/annuity-surrender-charge-pf-education-in_gl_1212investopedia_inl.html
  4. Villarreal, P. (2014, January 22). How are seniors spending their money? National Center for Policy Analysis. Retrieved from http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ib135
  5. Waters, J. (2013, May 10). A new way to pay for dream vacations. Retrieved from http://www.marketwatch.com/story/cant-afford-a-vacation-put-it-on-layaway-2013-05-10
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