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Annuities - Choosing A Strategy

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Table 3 compares two strategies for retirement: keeping all of one's savings invested while taking money out systematically over a lifetime, or using part of savings to purchase an immediate annuity. A third strategy is to wait until at least age seventy to buy an annuity.

Make systematic withdrawals. This means spending money at a rate conservatively estimated to last the rest of one's life and investing the balance until it is needed. This strategy allows a person to tap into his or her savings to pay for expenses. One may decide to withdraw a set amount or percentage from retirement savings each year. This method provides freedom to invest one's money however one desires, as well as the flexibility to respond to needs or opportunities that may arise. For example, many of today's Table 3 Comparing two strategies for managing retirement nest eggs. SOURCE: Actuarial Foundation, 2000 popular investment ideas, such as index funds, international funds, certificates of deposit, and money market funds, were unknown only a few decades ago, and other new concepts and products are likely to become available in the years ahead. A person can also easily change this strategy if purchasing an annuity begins to look attractive.

Using this approach, it is important not to withdraw too much money in any one year— especially early in retirement. Too much money withdrawn at any one time will deplete one's retirement savings. It is also prudent to be conservative and update the plan every four years.

Use some assets to purchase an immediate income annuity. To eliminate some of the uncertainty, one can apply part of one's funds to buy an immediate income annuity, or use a company pension to supplement one's monthly income. An income annuity will convert part of retirement savings into a stream of monthly income that lasts for the rest of one's life. No matter how long a person lives, immediate income annuities can be another building block of income that can't be outlived, and they can be added to other sources of income that are typically considered the foundation of a retirement income, such as personal savings, Social Security, and pension proceeds.

Wait to buy an annuity until at least age seventy. Instead of purchasing an annuity from an insurer at the time of retirement, a person may want to manage his or her own money until a certain age, and then buy an annuity. This strategy preserves more flexibility to deal with changes that may occur, and it recognizes that an insured annuity provides more valuable longevity insurance at advanced ages. In other words, a person could choose to self-insure the longevity risk until age seventy or beyond, then buy an annuity if he or she remains in good health.

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