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July 26, 2022

Using a Split Annuity as a Balanced Approach to Retirement and Estate Planning

Maintaining your standard of living while trying to preserve your wealth for loved ones is a tightrope walk, something you’re probably aware of if you're close to retiring or already enjoying this milestone in life. Finding a balance between these two goals is especially challenging since your retirement years could span decades. A way to maintain your income stream and hold onto financial assets is by investing in a split annuity.  

The Basics of an Annuity

In a nutshell, an annuity is an investment contract with tax advantages that you hold with an insurer or financial services company. You have the option to pay your premiums annually or by lump sum, and your service will pay over a set term or a lifetime in return. 

For purposes of the split annuity strategy covered below, we’ll highlight “fixed” annuities. These typically provide participants with a guaranteed minimum return rate. There are other annuities options, including "variable" and "equity-indexed," which are more volatile but have significant upside potential compared to fixed products. 

Annuities can fall into two categories: immediate or deferred. Immediate annuities give you payouts immediately, whereas deferred options begin paying at a predetermined future date. 

Another consideration for annuity earnings is that they are tax-deferred. This means they will increase in value, tax-free until paid or withdrawn. Every payment will have a portion dedicated to standard income tax rates, and the remainder is considered a tax-free return of principal (premiums). 

Deferred annuities tend to grow faster than comparable accounts because of their ability to accumulate earnings on a tax-deferred basis. This perk offsets the modest interest rates they usually offer.

Another feature of annuities that make them attractive is the flexibility of reallocating or withdrawing funds according to your circumstances. Keep in mind that you may have to pay early withdrawal or surrender charges depending on how much you take and at what point this occurs in the annuity's lifecycle.

Understanding the Split Annuity Strategy

Split annuities are not a single product, but rather two that are often funded by a single investment source. Most split strategies will involve using some of your funds to purchase an immediate annuity, making fixed payments over a specific term, such as 15 years. The funds you have left over then get invested in a deferred annuity that won't pay out until the initial period has ended. 

The outcome is that once your immediate annuity term has ended, you will have accumulated enough earnings in your deferred annuity to equal what you originally invested. Essentially, if set up correctly, your split annuity will create a fixed income stream for several years that preserves your principal. 

Once the term has ended, reassess what options you have available. For instance, you might decide to have your deferred annuity start sending you payments, reinvest in another split annuity, withdraw a portion of the entire cash value it holds, or consider another investment option altogether. 

If you'd like to learn more about split annuities, reach out to us. We are eager to help you determine the best strategy for your retirement situation. 

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