When people hear the term, "longevity insurance," they immediately conjure up images of insurance agents trying to sell them an insurance policy. Longevity insurance isn't a product in and of itself. It is instead one application of a couple of different types of fixed income annuity products offered by life insurance companies.
The Need for Longevity Insurance
It's been my personal and professional experience that people generally underestimate how long they will live. Not only is it common to live to age 80, it isn't unusual to survive to age 90 and even to 100. According to a March, 2012 report, The 2011 Risks and Process of Retirement Survey, prepared for the Society of Actuaries, when a couple reaches 65, there's a 10% chance that at least one of the individuals will live to 100. There's a 1% chance that one spouse will reach 107. More than half of retirees and pre-retirees underestimate the age to which a person of his or her age and gender can expect to live.
Given the foregoing facts, combined with the uncertainty of the sustainability of a traditional investment portfolio as a source of retirement income, there's a need for a guaranteed lifetime income solution for the latter stage of one's life. The income amount, when combined with other sources of sustainable income, needs to be sufficient to meet projected known and unforeseen expenses for an indefinite period of time.
Products Providing Longevity Insurance
There are two types of fixed income annuities that can be used for the purpose of longevity insurance: deferred income annuities ("DIA's") and fixed index annuities ("FIA's") with income riders. Both provide the ability to (a) receive income beginning in a future year, and (b) have the income be paid for the remainder of one's life and a spouse's life if married.
Deferred Income Annuities
Although DIA's are currently offered by only a handful of life insurance companies, they're the solution that's typically been touted for longevity insurance up until now. Like single premium immediate annuities, or "SPIA's," DIA's pay periodic income for a specified period of time or over one's lifetime or joint lifetimes as applicable. Unlike SPIA's which begin payments one month after date of purchase, the start date of DIA payments is contractually defined and is deferred for at least 13 months. The longer the income start date is delayed, the lower the premium, or investment, required to provide a specified amount of income.
Although DIA's can be purchased for a specified term, e.g., ten years, when used as longevity insurance, the payout on DIA's often starts in one's 80's and is for life. Depending upon the age at which a DIA is purchased, the premium can be a relatively small amount compared to the potential lifetime income that may be received.
Fixed Index Annuities With Income Riders
For those individuals who don't want to be locked into a fixed starting date, in addition to providing an accumulation value, FIA's with income riders offer greater flexibility than DIA's. With FIA's, which are more readily available than DIA's, there's no contractual income start date. Income withdrawals can generally begin any time at least one year after the initial investment is made. The longer the start date is deferred, the greater the amount of lifetime income. The start date can be targeted when the investment is purchased based on the amount and timing of initial and projected ongoing investments and desired amount of income. A flexible, vs. single, premium FIA is required in order to invest additional funds.
Depending upon one's needs and marketplace availability, it may make sense to use a combination of DIA's and FIA's with income riders. and potentially multiple products within each category, to meet deferred lifetime income needs. As with all things of this nature, a thorough analysis should be prepared by a professional retirement income planner to determine the solution that will best meet your needs.