Annuities and Insurance: Filling the Cracks in Your Financial Plan
If you’re contributing to an employer-sponsored retirement plan on a regular basis, be sure to congratulate yourself! You are already taking an important step toward addressing what may be the biggest financial challenge you will ever face. And if you are setting aside money for the college education of a child or grandchild, you deserve credit for that, too.
But take heed: There may be more you can or should be doing. In fact, a well-rounded financial plan might also need to include insurance strategies and the use of annuities to safeguard your vision of the future. However, you should consult a financial professional before deciding whether a particular insurance strategy is an appropriate choice in light of your particular needs and financial position.
Retirement Readiness: More Than a Plan?
While most financial experts encourage workers to contribute the maximum amount allowed to their retirement plans, they also warn that such contributions may not be enough to guarantee a secure future.
For example, the Social Security Administration estimates that, on average, retirees receive less than one quarter of retirement income from private pensions (including retirement savings plans); Social Security payments account for only an additional 39% of income. Ultimately, you may be responsible for addressing any shortfalls.1
Annuities may offer one way to bridge that gap. An annuity is an investment contract offered through an insurance company and purchased with one or more payments. Annuities offer a lifetime stream of income and generally offer a guaranteed return of principal if you die before withdrawals begin. And because an annuity is a tax-deferred investment account, earnings are not taxable until money is withdrawn, which means the value of your assets could grow more rapidly than in a taxable account.2
There are two types of annuities: A fixed annuity pays a fixed rate of return for a stated period of time. A variable annuity offers a wide range of investment options (such as stock and bond subaccounts) and does not guarantee a fixed return.
Since annuities generally do not have contribution limits, they may make sense for workers who have already maximized contributions to their other tax-advantaged accounts, such as retirement plans and IRAs. Consider consulting a financial professional before you decide whether a particular investment is an appropriate choice in light of your unique financial needs and risk tolerance.
The Insurance Safety Net
You may also want to consider purchasing insurance policies in order to protect against unexpected financial hardships that might otherwise require you to spend money earmarked for other goals.
For example, disability income insurance could enable your family
to maintain its current standard of living in the event that you are unable
to work for a period of time. And life insurance could provide your dependents
with longer-term security after your death.
Keep in mind that term life insurance only provides coverage for a predetermined amount of time, while whole life insurance can remain in effect indefinitely, provided premiums are paid. Also, whole life insurance typically includes a cash value feature that can allow you to accumulate additional wealth over time.
To learn more about the strategies that could plug holes in your financial plan, consider speaking with a financial professional.
1Source: Social Security Administration, 2003.
2Withdrawals from tax-deferred accounts will be taxed at then-current rates. Early withdrawals may be subject to surrender fees, and withdrawals made prior to age 59 1/2 may be subject to a 10% IRS penalty tax. Investment returns cannot be guaranteed. You should consult your tax advisor as to the tax consequences of a particular investment.
©2004 Standard & Poor’s Financial Communications. All rights reserved.
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