April 17, 2019
Re: Why I still hate annuities: Here are the reasons these investments are bogus
To: Nicole Carroll, Editor USA Today
Dear Ms. Carroll,
In response to Kenneth Fisher’s opinion piece in USA Today, dated April 14, 2019, I would like to rebut his misleading and factually inaccurate view regarding annuities. In this piece, he mirrors his decade long marketing campaign “Why I Hate Annuities,” coined by the investment firm he founded. Mr. Fisher clearly does not like the annuity concept, yet his own firm gets paid out like an annuity, steadily receiving his current clients’ fees regardless of his performance in managing his clients’ assets. Mr. Fisher’s organization requires a $500,000 minimum to invest, so his clients are paying a minimum of $5,000 per year in fees. As clients de-accumulate during their retirement years, is Mr. Fisher’s firm going to drop them or provide less service when they fall below that $500,000 threshold, at a time when they need individualized financial advice the most?
Annuities are insurance products that have been around since the Roman Empire utilized to pay Roman soldiers an “annua” or annual stipend for life for their service. Guaranteed lifetime income is important, as many Americans do not have a pension plan: survey after survey confirm that a significant worry for retirees is the possibility of outliving their retirement savings. Is Mr. Fisher’s firm going to guarantee that his clients will have a steady income for life, whether they live to 75 or 105? Is Mr. Fisher’s firm going to provide guaranteed, consistent income to a retiree that retired during a downturn in the market — or just to those fortunate to have been in a sustained bull market?
Like health, auto, homeowners or life insurance, financial advisors and insurance professionals recommend annuities to deal with specific risks like longevity, health care costs, and sequence of return risk as part of a stable retirement income plan, which today may last 25 to 40 years. Annuity sales reached $234 billion in 2018, which was an almost 15% increase over 2017. More importantly, consumers are happy with annuities, as evidenced by de minimus customer complaint data.
Life insurance companies pay out billions of dollars annually in annuities (in 2017 that number was $82 billion!) to individuals and families to help them customize their financial and retirement plans. Far from being “horsepucky,” annuities protect against life’s uncertainties, allowing consumers to manage their financial risks and offering peace of mind to Americans when they need it the most.
Charles J. DiVencenzo
President & CEO