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Despite Challenges, Annuity Outlook for 2012 Good

In “Outlook 2012: Annuities-Industry at Crossroads, With Weatherford, Greenwald, Cortazzo,” John Sullivan of AdvisorOne says that annuities should do well next year despite some potential hurdles.  With two major annuity carriers departing the market recently, you would think that would forecast a big problem for annuities overall.  But that is just a product of some horrible market conditions and the need for annuities now is greater than ever.  Lifetime income guarantees are more important now than ever before as Baby Boomers retire and markets remain less than stable.  As the market makes it harder for insurers to hedge those guarantees and run their companies, the annuity market will likely change to try and keep up.

While there is a greater need for annuity products than there was in 2007, there are fewer carriers to meet that need.  Low interest rates and a volatile market are a double whammy for insurers, according to MACRO Consulting Group’s Mark Cortazzo.  He thinks that advisors should look at products with short surrender periods and liquidity.  He says that his company looks to match annuities with people who need income right away, want security, and may be making no money in a money market.  So even with low immediate annuity rates, there are many consumers who still stand to benefit from the use of annuities in their portfolios.

Matt Greenwald, CEO and president of an annuity research firm, doesn’t believe that the companies leaving the annuities market is quite that significant.  He stresses that factors beyond the annuities market led to the exit of these Canadian insurers and thinks that the annuity industry will continue to do well despite its challenges.  Cathy Weatherford of the IRI says that government recommendations for using 401k annuities and other annuity products so that some retirement income is guaranteed to Americans will also help to strengthen the industry in 2012.  So while the financial markets are making things difficult for the annuity industry, overall it should remain strong and overcome its challenges.

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