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Understanding if longevity annuities are right for you

Published 5:45pm Wednesday, November 21, 2012

If that bothers you, you may want to consider a longevity policy that offers flexible features like a death benefit to be paid to your heirs, early payment options, inflation protection and more. The downside, however, is that every extra feature you add will reduce your monthly benefit.

You can use the Brandes Retirement Simulator (see www.brandes.com/institute) to figure out if you should consider a policy. Plug in your current and projected income, expenses and investment strategies. It will show you the possible impact of a longevity product on retirement spending and on your income after age 85. Brandes does not sell longevity insurance.

When to buy

Most people purchase a longevity annuity at or just prior to the time they retire. To estimate how much coverage you should get, figure out how much of your essential expenses you can cover with Social Security, pensions, and other forms of guaranteed income, and buy longevity coverage for the rest. But don’t overdue it. Experts recommend you use no more than 10 to 15 percent of your assets to purchase a policy, and leave the rest in your portfolio to provide income until it kicks in.

Also, when choosing a product, remember that you’re buying income that will not kick in for 20 years or more. So be sure to go with a company with a good reputation and solid financials, which you can check online for free at ambest.com, standardandpoors.com and thestreet.com/insurers. Insurance companies that currently sell longevity annuities are MetLife, Hartford Financial Services, Symetra, New York Life, Northwestern Mutual and MassMutual.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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