Last week's post presented a list of 12 questions you should ask yourself when considering the purchase of fixed index annuities ("FIA's"). As evidenced by the questions, themselves, as well as the number of questions, this is a very technical area that requires specialized expertise.
So where do you find answers to the various questions? Assuming that investment in one or more FIA's makes sense in your financial situation, where should you go to purchase these long-term investments? The remainder of this post will assume that you're considering FIA's in the context of a retirement income plan.
Unlike investing in the stock market, where you can utilize the services of an investment manager or be a do-it-yourselfer, you must purchase fixed index annuities from a licensed life insurance agent who has the requisite training to sell annuities. Life insurance agents can sell different types of insurance products, including life, disability, and long-term care insurance, as well as annuities. Life insurance companies, life insurance agents, types of products, and the specific products that can be sold, are regulated by an insurance body in each state.
Not every life insurance agent sells annuities. Some only sell variable annuities. Furthermore, there are several different types of fixed annuities, including single premium deferred annuities ("SPDA's"), single premium immediate annuities ("SPIA's), deferred income annuities ("DIA's), and FIA's. FIA's are a unique type of fixed annuity that requires specialized expertise and training, and, as such, aren't offered by every life insurance agent who sells fixed annuities.
Since a FIA is a unique long-term investment with several moving parts in the base product as well as the income rider that change on a regular basis in response to market conditions, it's important to work with an independent life insurance agent who has access to at least two dozen FIA's offered by at least six different highly-rated life insurance companies, and sells them on a regular basis.
Going beyond locating a life insurance agent who (a) sells annuities, (b) sells fixed annuities, (c) sells FIA's, and (d) is an independent agent with access to several different FIA's offered by several different highly-rated life insurance companies, there are other considerations to keep in mind before purchasing a FIA. First and foremost, you need to recognize and understand the fact that retirement income planning is a specialized discipline, it's complicated, there are many risks that need to be considered, and mistakes can be costly.
Given the fact that the purchase of a FIA with an income rider for retirement income planning purposes is typically a lifetime investment that often requires a large upfront financial commitment and potentially ongoing periodic investments, it's especially important that you work with the right individual. Specifically, the person you choose should be a professional retirement income planner. What exactly is a retirement income planner? Sounds like the subject of another post.