Betting on Getting to 80 | Massachusetts Elder Care Attorney
For Those Who Are Concerned About Outliving Their Money
According to research for our book The Seniors and Boomers Guide to Health Care Reform and Avoiding Nursing Home Poverty, outliving one’s life savings is a top concern for many people. One possible solution to this is what the US Treasury is pushing many baby boomers to do: start writing checks to their insurance companies for products that won’t be a financial benefit for them until they’re 80. The Treasuries new rules on annuities known as longevity insurance could allow millions of Americans fresh options for their retirement accounts and 401(k) plans. This is according to Bloomberg Personal Finance.
The challenge: convincing savers to choose that option. The annuities thrill retirement experts and policy makers who see them as a way to ensure workers don’t end up impoverished in old age. Just about everyone else ignores the products, which make up less than 1 percent of all annuity sales.
It can be a great investment too. With $125,000, a 60-year-old man can buy a policy from New York Life that guarantees an income of almost $45,000 a year starting at age 80. The same $125,000 in a regular retirement account would need to grow at the unlikely rate of 11 percent a year from age 60 to 80 to provide that income, assuming 4 percent is withdrawn annually after age 80.
Planning for the Future
Since women live longer than men, their longevity policies are more expensive, and more valuable. Millions of widows in their 80s and 90s end up living on Social Security alone. A 60-year-old woman who puts $125,000 into one of these annuities could get an annual payout of $35,268. For women with a husband and no children, a longevity benefit is a comforting buffer against long-term care costs.
Dollars in longevity policies go farther for those who buy earlier than 60 or start the benefit later than 80. If the insurance becomes common in retirement plans, the cost of policies should fall. To maximize her payout, Carson decided against buying inflation protection and a provision that refunds all the money she put in if she dies early.
Indeed, the oft-repeated big risk with longevity insurance is that buyers could die before they collect. But that chance is what allows the policies to be so lucrative for the long-lived. Those who die early help pay for those who live into their 90s and later. And even if you die at 75, the guarantee of income at 80 means you can tap the rest of your nest egg earlier without worrying so much about running out of money.
How It Works
For longevity insurance to catch on, it needs to gain a foothold in retirement plans. The Treasury rules let workers devote as much as 25 percent of their 401(k) to the products, up to $125,000. That doesn’t mean employers will offer the option or that workers will choose it though.
Employers face legal liability for their retirement plan options, making them cautious about relatively unproven products. Insurance companies may need to come up with new kinds of longevity annuities that are more transparent and are geared more towards women since they tend to live longer.
Adding to the resistance is a widespread assumption that Americans don’t want to lock up their cash in insurance products. They’d rather get big eventual lump sum payouts, even if they have no idea how to turn that into an income that will support them in their old age.
What the Experts Think
If longevity insurance takes off, it will be a real victory for the experts who have been striving to change that mindset. This may also provide a solution for many boomers and seniors for whom outliving their life savings is a major concern. For more information about these and other concerns see the report from the Seniors and Boomers’ Guide to Health Care Reform and Avoiding Nursing home Poverty.
Everyone would love 401(k) plans to look more like traditional pensions or Social Security, so savers can put less focus on the balance in their account rather than on the income it will eventually produce. That’s an outlook your 100-year-old self may well appreciate.
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