These are the core fixed index annuities posts that highlight the AST core content

Pros and Cons of Fixed Index Annuities

In retirement, how much money you have is not nearly as important as how much money you have to spend. So the biggest challenge when weighing the pros and cons of fixed index annuities in retirement planning is determining if the annuity you are considering will create guaranteed income that is there when you need it.

But when it comes to guaranteed income, all too often, retirees are only shown just a few options, like complicated ‘hybrid’ lifetime income annuities.

It’s a shame, but people mistakenly think they must settle for these low income payout, long term contracts that offer little or no growth of their money. When it comes to pros and cons, too often, the ‘cons’ outweigh the ‘pros’ with these types of contracts.

You CAN Do Better!

Don’t let a few bad apples spoil the barrel- the reality is, there ARE better options out there that can secure your money and create a guaranteed income without locking yourself in to a ‘forever contract’ that you may come to regret.

In fact, savvy customers often find the guaranteed safety they need, but do so by staying OUT of guaranteed income contracts entirely!

With a focus on a safe and flexible guaranteed outcome planning, these smart consumers around the country have discovered the “Flex Strategy” and are using Fixed Index Annuities that guarantee the retirement they dream of, to mitigate risk and produce income options years into the future.

Click here to learn more about this smart, flexible annuity strategy. Or, read on for more on how a solid understanding of the pros and cons of Fixed Index Annuities, where we reveal how you can take the best these exciting products have to offer, and ditch the bloated bells and whistles, to create a compelling and flexible guaranteed retirement strategy.


Principle and Growth Guarantee- Your initial investment is safe from loss, and guaranteed to grow.  The contract will state the minimum amount you can expect to receive at the end of the surrender period.

Tax Deferral- Like all annuities, your money grows on a tax-deferred basis.

Account Step Ups- In most cases, a new base contract value can be locked in when the index performs well.  This gives you the benefit of locking in a new guaranteed basis when the market works the way we all want it to.


Low Cap and Participation Rates-  Unfortunately, there are poorly constructed index annuities that will not have beneficial caps and participation rates.  It’s critical to know what the objective of your investment is to ensure you get the right type of contract for your needs.  Growth oriented fixed index annuities have the better cap and participation rates than income oriented ‘hybrid’ annuities.

Long Surrender Periods- Again, poorly constructed contracts have long surrender periods, like 10 to 15 years.  Let me state for the record that I have yet to see a good indexed annuity with a long surrender period.  A more appropriate time horizon is five to 7 years. For instance, one of my favorite products in this category has a seven-year surrender period and generous provisions to allow you to take money out during that term.  If you happen to really like it after seven years, then buy it again and make it a fourteen-year strategy…. but at the very least, give yourself options so that if it doesn’t work for you, your money is free a lot sooner.

Complex Crediting Methods- Using obscure or proprietary indexes or complex crediting methods just makes it hard to understand the annuity.  Try to keep it simple so you can monitor performance and understand what happens on the account.

Now- The Basics of How Index Annuities Work

The Pros and Cons of Fixed Index Annuities

The AST Flex Strategy helps you understand the pros and cons of fixed index annuities.

Index Annuities, Fixed Index Annuities, and Equity Indexed Annuities, all mean the same thing. These are all the same insurance product with different labels, but the correct name is a ‘Fixed Index Annuity’.

Fixed Index Annuities are nothing more than fixed annuities with a different method of crediting interest. With a fixed annuity, which is a lot like a CD, the contract owner receives a stated rate of interest each year.

But with an Index Annuity, the appreciation rate is calculated based on growth in an outside market index, like the S+P 500 or the Dow Jones index.

The beauty of Index Annuities is that if the market index goes up, the contract makes money. But if the index goes down, the principal is protected and the contract does not lose value.

Index annuities give consumers a partial participation in the markets, but offer a principal guarantee.

How Insurance Companies Make This Possible

How can insurance companies make a guarantee that your Fixed Index Annuity may go up, but will not go down?

Insurance companies in general use the premium they bring in to invest in safe assets in the general account.  Think of it like a large pool of conservatively invested money. In fact ,Warren Buffet made his money buying insurance companies, and then using the premiums to buy other businesses that increased the overall corporate financial strength.

In a Fixed Index Annuity, the insurance company uses your premium to invest in bonds, mortgages, and other instruments in the safe, core general account.  This produces an annual rate of return, often known as the ‘general account’ yield.  you will see this rate credited in fixed annuities, and also in many cash value life insurance products.

But with an indexed annuity, instead of accepting this ‘general account’ fixed rate, the insurance company uses the interest earned from the conservative portfolio to purchase an option position in a market index. An option is simply the right- but not the obligation- to purchase securities at a future date for a contractually stated price.

If the market goes up, the company will exercise the option and realize a gain. They credit a portion of the gain on that option contract to your annuity contract.

If the market moves sideways or down, the option expires worthless and no interest – or gain- is available for crediting.

Potential for Gain with No Risk of Loss

When talking about the pros and cons of fixed index annuities, the biggest positive is that index annuities truly offer you the potential for gains based on market appreciation, without the risk of loss to your principal.

Your principal is not at risk, rather, it’s only the earnings from your principal are invested in potentially higher yield options. Thus, an indexed annuity is a safe asset with upside potential.

This explanation also gives you a good idea why these are called “Fixed Index Annuities”. Income from the FIXED account growth is used to buy options in a market INDEX for potential gain.

If the market rises, you may profit. If the market falls, the company has wagered only your income from the FIXED account, so your principal at all times remains safe.

 Using Fixed Index Annuities

Fixed index annuities are a great alternative to bonds and are a core, safe money holding often used to make sure principal is safe, and to preserve assets and options for later.

The typical buyer of an index annuity seeks the potential for growth without risk of loss, and appreciates principal protection and tax deferred compounding.

But far too often, the simple and elegant fixed index annuity gets clouded with bells and whistles and add-on riders, turning it into more of a ‘hybrid annuity’.

It’s crucial to know that most ‘hybrid annuities’ are not optimized for safety and growth.

In fact, there are over 350 different index annuity contracts on the market today and it’s growing every day.

Far too many agents have one preferred contract they work with for all scenarios. That is just not appropriate, and it’s why we start by understanding your objectives first before looking at any specific contract.

For more than 13 years we have watched, analyzed, and sold these annuities and have come to understand them intimately. Better than anyone, we understand the pros and cons of fixed index annuities and how to use them in retirement.

We’ve produced The Annuity Guide as essential reading for retirees considering Fixed Index Annuities.  It is available for a free download at Annuity Straight Talk, and will help you find the safety and guarantees you need.

Click Here to get your copy today!

If you seek a qualified adviser well versed in the pros and cons of fixed index annuities, please do not hesitate to contact Annuity Straight Talk today on 800-438-5121.

Annuity Scams – Too Good To Be True?

annuity scam alert

annuity scam alert

As our readers and customer know, we love annuities and do our best to educate you so that when you buy from us, you’re doing so with full knowledge of what these powerful safe money contracts can accomplish.

So it’s a real slap in the face to learn of dishonest and deceptive annuity sales people muddying the waters. It just makes life harder for everyone.

In the “I can’t believe I just read that department,” I wanted to share with you a recent dialogue we had with a client who seems to have had a close brush with disaster.

Here’s the original email from our client-

“I was talking to an extended family member over the weekend at a party about annuities. He told me about a fixed indexed annuity at a place called XXXXXXXX.

It pays a 6% bonus on your investment for the first year and is currently paying a 1.2% fixed rate on top of that. So for the first year you are getting 7.2%.

He put in 285,000.00 earlier this year from his IRA retirement monies. He said he plans to keep it for only a year.

When he surrenders it after the first year he will have to pay a 10% penalty surrender fee only on the money he made. So he will be making 7.2% for a total of 20,520.00. The surrender fee will be 2,052.00.

He will be making a net of 18,468.00 and walking away with 303,468.00. If it is still available he plans to do another one after cashing in this one.

This sounds too good to be true. Is he missing something. Do you know if this is correct and if so can you get this for me?


Wow, there are just so many lies this poor ‘extend family member’ annuity buyer fell for, it’s just shocking. Bryan’s quick reply is below, and I’ll detail a few additional points afterwards.



Unfortunately, your relative’s plans for that annuity won’t even come close to working out. The surrender fee is applied against the entire account and the bonus has a vesting schedule so he won’t see much if any of that either.

If he really plans to walk away in one year then he stands to lose a big chunk of money.

It’s a shame to see annuities sold like that since the strategy you mentioned runs completely contrary to the purpose and structure of most annuities.

I have you rescheduled for Wednesday so please let me know if anything changes.




This little exchange reveals so much about the annuity space. Investors and retirees are desperately seeking yield and safety, yet even when confronted with a self-professed ‘too good to be true’ scenario, they still want to buy it.

Why is it that people always reach for the flame, but are constantly surprised when they get burned?

There’s no way an insurance carrier would offer a bonus on a new contract, and not hedge their risk with a long surrender schedule and a vesting schedule of that bonus. It just doesn’t happen that way.

So why a dishonest salesman would promote such a scheme is beyond me- encouraging people to go into multi-year long term contracts with the express purpose of surrendering after 1 year is just not just crazy, but it’s dishonest to boot.

If the agent led this client into this trap, there are legal repercussions, loss of license, and fines that can be assessed if the agent is reported to state insurance regulators.

That said, if the buyer jumped into this on their own recognizance and dreamt up their own harebrained scheme, then they are in for a rude awakening when they realize what they actually signed up for is a long term, safe money contract. Let’s hope they don’t have IRA RMD requirements to boot.

But who knows – maybe having this money tied up for a few years will help the buyer ‘cool off’ and protect them from themselves…..

The lesson?

It if sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Learn the facts about how annuities work, and learn the rates and yields you can expect. That way, you can spot a scam and steer the other way.

Annuities provide safety, moderate growth, and income benefits. Knowing this about annuities, our clients first define what they need, and then they like to work with us as we find the best annuity for that specific job. We leave out the contracts with lots of bells and whistles, and we certainly don’t need any of the scam tactics this poor person fell for. That’s the Annuity Straight Talk way.


Looking forward to your call,


Nathaniel M. Pulsifer and Bryan J Anderson

Annuity Straight Talk

800 438 5121

5 Key Questions About Index Annuities

fixed index annuities and variable annuities

fixed index annuities and variable annuities explained

The National Association of Fixed Annuities (NAFA) recently held a conference and prior to the event, a useful little document was circulated.  It is a consumer facing a simple question and answer style comparison and clarification of fixed index annuities and variable annuities.

The document speaks to many of the misconceptions in the marketplace and makes a thinly veiled jab at Ken Fisher, of Fisher Investments, who is notorious across the internet for his ‘I Hate Annuities And You Should Too” adds.  Ugh- how we hate those ads!

Ignorant, misinformed, deceptive ads plague the annuity space and just throw a lot of flak in the air.

So as always, for some Straight Talk advice, just pick up the phone and give us a call.  For some quality reading too, read on below for the full article.

5 answers every investor needs to know about annuities

Originally published on

From Oct. 15-17 many of the major players in the annuity world gathered in Scottsdale, Ariz. at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa for the 2014 IMO Summit. Prior to the Event, NAFA sent out a paper, “Answers every investor needs to know about annuities,” that can benefit advisors as well as consumers.

On the following pages, NAFA answers five of the most important questions you’ll ever receive about annuities. These nuggets can be vital in helping producers educate clients and prospects on annuity products.

1. What kinds of returns can I expect with an annuity?

There are two types of annuities: fixed and variable. Variable annuities earn investment returns based on the performance of the investment portfolios, known as “subaccounts,” where you choose to put your money. The return earned in a variable annuity isn’t guaranteed. If the value of the subaccounts goes up, you could make money. However, if the value goes down, you could lose money. Also, income payments to you could be less than you expected.

Fixed annuities earn interest and not “returns.” This is an important distinction because investments earn returns and a rate of return calculates investment losses as well as investment gains. Life insurance and fixed annuities earn interest. Since there are no investment losses in an insurance product like fixed annuities, the use of “return” is confusing and misleading.

Unfortunately, mixing up these two distinct concepts is a common mistake made by those who don’t sell or understand fixed annuities and who, perhaps, make their living selling risk-based investments. With fixed deferred annuities, the insurance company either calculates and determines the interest to be credited based on the insurance company’s earnings (for set or declared rate annuities) or based on the positive performance of a market index (for indexed annuities).

To learn how Fixed Index Annuities work, read this

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), which regulates fixed annuities, considers both products fixed annuities, regardless of how interest is calculated. All fixed annuities, including indexed rate and declared rate annuities, guarantee you will not suffer losses because the markets do.

2. Is it true that indexed annuities can limit how much interest I earn?

The main difference between fixed indexed annuities and other forms of fixed annuities is the way interest is calculated. And, just as you don’t receive all of the positive earnings from the insurance company investment portfolio in a declared rate annuity, you do not earn all of the positive index performance in an indexed annuity.

The insurance company must pay for the insurance guarantees of the annuity, as well as the usual and customary company expenses to develop, market and service the annuities sold. Insurance companies use participation rates and caps in indexed annuities to pay for these expenses and ensure profitability.

A participation rate or a cap can be raised up or down, reflecting current market and economic conditions. During strong economic times, these rates and caps will be higher; during weak or negative economic times, they will be lower. This flexibility is advantageous for the consumer: the annuity contract adapts to market conditions while also being protected with minimum guarantees and suffering no losses because the index change is negative.

Sometimes folks that “hate” annuities like to show “hypothetical” performances of an indexed annuity by cherry picking economic cycles or other market variables. But, since indexed annuities have been sold for almost 20 years, we have studies that review actual interest earnings paid into the annuity contract using a statistical sample of over 300 real-life indexed annuity contracts. NAFA encourages you to read the full academic paper called, “Real-World Index Annuity Returns.”

The authors of this study are often called upon to discuss real, historical scenarios, not hypothetical examples using select periods, explaining how fixed indexed annuities actually perform for their owners.

3. Okay, so please explain about the kinds of expenses associated with the annuity?

It is common for those who do not sell fixed annuities and engage in negative advertising about annuities to confuse concepts and features between fixed and variable annuities. Both types of annuities can play a role in financial and retirement planning, but it is important to understand the differences between the two products.

Fixed annuities have charges (called surrender charges) that are made only when you take money out of the annuity. Most fixed annuities allow you to take a certain amount of money without paying any charges, but if you take more, the amount over the maximum will be charged a penalty. Also, if you terminate your annuity contract early, before the charges have expired, you will pay a surrender charge.

All charges, and under what conditions they are imposed, must be clearly explained in the documents you receive both before and after you purchase the annuity. Fixed annuities may also offer riders that provide additional benefits and features, and you may be charged for those riders. All insurance companies are required by law to fully disclose all charges and under what circumstances they may be incurred. This information must be disclosed both before you buy the annuity and in the insurance policy you receive from the insurance company.

Also, unlike investment products, all annuity policies issued come with a money-back guarantee, called a “free-look period,” during which time you can return and cancel the policy and receive ALL of your entire premium back. This is an insurance guarantee and consumer protection that investment products do not provide.

4. Can you explain why there are surrender charges?

The insurance guarantees of complete protection from market losses, income for life, minimum interest, and additional interest above the minimum are not free and are an expense to the insurance company. As with any company, there are other costs of business, including: regulatory compliance, mandated reserving, product development, marketing, and servicing annuity customers. In order to pay for the expenses and the mandated reserves required to remain a solvent and a viable business, the insurer invests the premiums it receives.

However, like any investment, it can only cover the expenses and profit requirements if it retains the investment for a sufficient period, often several years. If an annuity contract is canceled too early, these expenses will more than likely be greater than their investment returns, and the insurance company will suffer a loss. It is left to the insurance company to determine prevention measures to avoid a loss. All prudent buyers of financial products want their company to operate at a profit.

So, the question becomes, what do you consider the fairest loss prevention method? Some methods assign the cost of offsetting the potential loss to all buyers, whether they surrender their contracts early or not. By contrast, the surrender charge method imposes the burden of repaying unrecovered expenses only to those who caused the loss by not fulfilling the contractual obligation. There are fixed annuities with no surrender charge and some with 12-year surrender charges — and everything in between.

Surrender charges must be properly explained and understood by the consumer considering purchasing an annuity. Surrender charges are the best tools for ensuring that all consumers receive the most competitive interest rate and annuity features possible and that the insurers are adequately protected from a “run on the bank.”

5. Is it true that many income riders are beneficial only if the annuity performs poorly and that they require turning my annuity into a stream of income payments?

When you hear or read about income riders, it is extremely important to understand what information is applicable to variable annuities and what information is applicable to fixed annuities. Variable annuities have market risk, and the value of the subaccounts chosen could go up or down. If they go up, you could make money. If they go down, you could lose money. Also, income payments to you could be less than you expected. By contrast, many fixed indexed annuities have a baseline income guarantee, and you can also utilize the performance of the annuity to increase the guaranteed income exponentially.

Fixed indexed annuities available today do not require annuitization on their income riders. These income riders for fixed annuities (typically called guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit riders) provide a guaranteed income stream, typically a percentage of the premium, but the income stream lasts your entire life, even if your annuity account value falls to zero.

Most income riders allow you to turn the income payments on and off or take out the money remaining in your annuity that has not been paid out or withdrawn by you. An income rider should not be confused with annuitization, available in all fixed deferred annuities, which guarantees the amount you will be paid and guarantees that you can receive those payments as long as you live.

The key difference between an income rider and annuitization is that with the income rider you still own and have control of the annuity account value. With annuitization, you convert all value to a promised payment stream.