In the past year, Vanguard annuities have added a model that includes an income rider for the first time. The GLWB, Guaranteed Lifetime Withdrawal Benefit, is not a home run or exceptional payout vehicle, but may provide the right fit for the moderately aggressive investor who doesn’t mind market fluctuations.
Vanguard annuities are known for low cost, however, if an investor is turning to an annuity for safety of principal, the Vanguard variable annuity is not the right choice. While it is true, the income withdrawal base, known as the Total Withdrawal Base in their plan, will provide a steady base for income withdrawals, the rules are strict and the investment restrictions are fairly tight. Variable annuities are long-term investment vehicles designed for retirement purposes and contain underlying investment portfolios that are subject to investment risk, including possible loss of principal. Before making any decision to switch to another annuity, you should consider annual maintenance fees, surrender charges, death benefits, and the financial strength of the insurance carriers.
The popularity of Vanguard annuities is not a surprise. Vanguard is the biggest name in the in the investment world and many retired investors are now interested in annuities. The advent of poor markets and low interest rates have driven many investors who would never have considered an annuity to now become quite interested. Where else can one receive a guaranteed level and sustainable income for life that beats bond and bank rates? Annuities are now firmly in the language of retired investors and many will flock to a popular name.
Here are a few things to be aware of with Vanguard annuities featuring the GLWB. While it is true that the Vanguard annuity is lower cost than most other variable annuities at .65% annual fee, the GLWB adds another .95% annually, bringing the total to 1.55%. The top hybrid annuities do not have the .65% fee. The hybrid would protect the owner’s principal against market declines. The Vanguard may provide more offense, but the hybrid would provide much more in the way of defense and lower cost.
While it is true that the standard sales line for a variable annuity is the “unlimited upside” potential, the prospective annuity consumer must also consider the unlimited downside. If you are truly someone who cannot stomach watching your money go up and down and seeing fees deducted from your hard earned principal, the Vanguard variable annuity is not for you, even with the Vanguard GLWB. If income security is all you are concerned with, it could be a fit, however, selected hybrid index annuities have higher payouts. Math matters. You may request free information and learn how to compare payouts at www.MyAnnuityGuy.com.
From a pure investment perspective, an unavoidable point to consider with the Vanguard variable annuity with the income rider is that you are restricted as to what you can invest in. The entire universe of Vanguard investments is not available to you and you are forced to keep a major portion of your money in bond mutual funds, where many experts agree there is risk. The Vanguard variable annuity requires you to choose from three GLWB-eligible investments from Vanguard: the Balanced Portfolio (60%–70%; stocks/30%–40% bonds), the Moderate Allocation Portfolio (60% stocks/40% bonds), and the Conservative Allocation Portfolio (40% stocks/60% bonds). The key issue with these portfolios is the reliance on bond mutual funds. We are in a low interest rate environment. When interest rates begin rising in the general economy, losses occur in bond funds due to the existing bonds losing value.
Is the Vanguard annuity a good deal? It’s an average deal. You can do better. In terms of future income, when compared to top paying hybrid annuities, it is very much middle of the road with more cost and more risks associated. Because of the bond allocations, the “unlimited upside” is a fairy tale. Bonds would have to go to minus 5% to repeat their stellar mutual fund growth. Since up to half of the portfolio is sitting in bond funds, waiting for the day interest rates start rising, it may not be a wise idea to start counting chickens before they hatch. Be astute and be wise and use a calculator. Bond funds don’t have a chance in a rising interest rate environment. If they take up half of your portfolio, you are cutting your stock returns in half, and paying income rider fees on top of it. With PE ratios on the S & P at over 21.4 as of this writing, your prospects for hitting it out of the park with stocks are not bright. Hybrid index annuities may not offer the exciting upside accumulation potential, however, they do offer superior income benefits. The annuity experts and research team at www.MyAnnuityGuy.com can provide you with the insight and market intelligence you need to make an informed and financially superior decision.