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Annuity Settlement Options: Annuitize or Lump Sum?

Annuity settlement options can be puzzling. Many people have purchased annuities of all types for the tax deferral feature. For many retirees the time has come to make the shift from accumulation to payout. Here are some considerations to help determine whatís best for you.

The most popular annuity settlement option is annuitization Ė to take payments over a time frame that you select, which may include the rest of your life. When you annuitize, you receive payments (monthly, semi-annually, annually) in exchange for surrendering your annuity to the annuity insurance company. Your annuitization options usually include:

Lifetime Income

Period Certain

Period Certain Plus Life

Here is how Lifetime Income works. Letís say you have 0,000 in an annuity and the insurance company calculates that, due to your age and gender, it will pay you ,500 a month for as long as you live. You collect ,500 the first month, ,500 the next month, and ,500 the following month. Then you get run over by a truck and die. You bet the insurance company you would outlive your 0,000 and you lost. ,500 is all you get; they keep the rest. This is maybe not such a good deal.

Your second option is called Period Certain. This means you can take your money out over a period of 5, 10, 15, or 20 years. The insurance company guarantees to pay out all your money (plus interest) over that period. If you do not live to the end of the period, your beneficiary gets the remaining money in your annuity over the balance of the period. Live or die, you or somebody else gets back all your money.

The third option is Period Certain Plus Life. Here the insurance company guarantees to pay you a check each month for a certain period of time, plus, if you live beyond that period (even if you live to be 150 years old) youíll receive monthly income that you cannot outlive.

The choices are not so simple. A monk in a monastery, for example, may well expect to live to a ripe old age and do better with a Lifetime Income (Although I wonder what he would spend the money on). Someone with a terminal illness may want to take a lump-sum settlement or a 5-year Period Certain. Take a close look at factors such as your health and spouseís health, your age and spouseís age, other sources of income, and your tax bracket.

For more flexibility you could opt for Systematic Withdrawals. In this case, you would receive a fixed percentage of the account value or a fixed monthly amount. You could stop this arrangement at any time and simply withdraw your remaining balance.

Although Systematic Withdrawals appear to have advantages over annuitization, note these two differences: With annuitization as your annuity settlement option, you can lock in a guaranteed monthly income regardless of the performance of your annuity. In addition, annuitization lengthens the tax deferral period since only part of each payment is taxed. The IRS considers the other part of your payments a return of principal.

Finally, you may want to just keep the annuity growing and not take payments at all. Some annuities, however, do not allow this and force withdrawals by a certain age. One option for you is a tax-free exchange to another annuity that may have more liberal withdrawal requirements, but watch out for surrender charges on your existing policy.

You probably never thought getting a check could be so complicated. Itís really not as messy as it sounds. In fact, I have annuity agents all across America who specialize in solving such problems. There is no charge or obligation. To have your choices compared, we would be happy to review any type of annuity settlement option and figure the most appropriate withdrawal option for you. Just click on the link in my bio below and fill out the form.

About the Author: Gary Le Mon is a wholesale distributor of fixed indexed annuities for Allianz, American Equity, Sun Life Financial, and ING. Author and developer of the Safe Money Seminar, a financial planning seminar for Seniors, Gary serves as guest speaker on behalf of agents and agencies nationwide. He is coach, mentor and motivator to over 700 general agents in his insurance marketing organization, InsuranStar Marketing. See also

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