In a follow-up hearing to the Labor and Treasury Departments request for information earlier this year, insurance companies want Washington officials to make it easier for employers to offer 401k annuities. Bloomberg’s article “Insurers Press U.S. to Let Employers Offer Annuities in Retirement Plans” by Margaret Collins provides information on the hearing. Insurers think that the government needs to provide “safe harbor” protection so that employers are not liable if the insurance company offering the annuity goes out of business. This protection will allow employers to easily offer annuities as a default investment for their 401k holders.
Even though plan sponsors will not be held liable for the failure of an insurance company, many worry that will be the case and don’t offer 401k annuities. Annuities offer guaranteed lifetime income solutions to retirees for a lump sum up front payment. When used with a 401k, some of the employer sponsored plan money can be set aside to purchase an immediate annuity that will cover at least your basic expenses in retirement. As life expectancies increase and traditional pension plans where workers received retirement payments similar to annuity payouts disappear, many workers will be left unable to cover expenses in retirement. Prudential and MetLife are two companies offering annuity contributions within 401k plans to help combat this retirement issue.