Product Review:
Athene Amplify 2.0

Registered index-linked annuity with a generous participation rate & a variety of investment options.

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Product Review:
United Life Legacy Accel Indexed Universal Life Insurance Policy

A generous cash alternative capable of generating up to about 7.5% a year, based on the last 5 years.

Read the full product review.


Product Review:
Guggenheim Highlander 7 Fixed Indexed Growth Annuity

A fixed indexed annuity (FIA) with a generous participation rate that may fit the bill for savvy investors, especially if they bundle its diverse offerings.

Read the full product review of this annuity.


Product Review:
Athene AccuMax 7 Fixed Indexed Growth Annuity

This Growth FIA May Be the Answer for Folks Who Don’t Like Declining Index Participation Rates

Read the full product review of this annuity.


Product Review:
Midland National RetireVantage®10 Growth Fixed Indexed Annuity

A Fixed Indexed Annuity That Could Rival the Unbridled Performance of the Stock Market

Read the full product review of this annuity.


Product Review:
Brighthouse SecureAdvantage 6 Fixed Indexed Annuity

These days, Brighthouse SecureAdvantage 6 is more attractive than most FIAs – period.

Read the full product review of this annuity.


Product Review:
Athene Amplify

A relatively new type of annuity – a structured variable or ‘buffered’ annuity – makes it easier for prospective annuity buyers to break into the stock market because, unlike a variable annuity, it offers some downside protection. Hence the adjective, “buffered.” And a recent structured variable annuity entrant – Athene Amplify – is arguably the best of all.

Read the full product review of this annuity.


Product Review:
Security Benefit Strategic Growth

The Security Benefit Strategic Growth FIA is a bit more generous than most. Strategic Growth is offering a 50% participation rate on the S&P 500, compared to 40% to 45% at competing growth FIAs. It’s also offering a slightly better deal to those who take the option of a higher index participation rate in exchange for accepting a 2-percentage point index spread.

Read the full product review of this annuity.


Product Review:
Athene Ascent Pro 10

A creative Athene fixed indexed annuity could make you a big winner. In effect a hybrid of a growth FIA and an income FIA, the Athene Ascent Pro 10 offers a stronger chance to beat the going guaranteed rate by doubling annual gains in the index and adding them to the annuity’s income base.

Read the full product review of this annuity.


Product Review:
AXA Structured Capital Strategies PLUS

AXA’s Structured Variable Annuity offers a nice compromise between two mainstream annuities, and may appeal to stock-oriented annuity investors. In exchange for receiving a higher earnings cap than offered by FIAs, investors pick up part of the losses in an underlying index in significantly down markets. But they are often structured in such a way so that owners are likely to come out ahead of the game in a multi-year scenario.

Read the full product review of this annuity.


Product Review:
As Recession Fears Rise, is it Time to Lower Your Risk and Protect Gains?

Should investors with significant stock market exposure lower their risk and protect their gains? In large part, it depends upon your risk tolerance, as well as your age. Bear markets typically accompany recessions and can be particularly painful for retirees, most of whom no longer earn a paycheck. On the other hand, sound stock market investing is a long-term game.

Read this exclusive article featuring 3 annuity product reviews.


Product Review:
AXA Retirement Cornerstone Variable Annuity

The AXA Retirement Cornerstone Variable Annuity — particularly attractive for those younger than age 65 — offers a better-than-average guaranteed income rider, more generous exposure to the stock market, the freedom to not take all of your monthly payment and reinvest it, and an unusually generous enhanced death benefit for those willing to pay up for a brighter legacy.

Read the full product review of this annuity.


Product Review:
Fidelity & Guaranty Safe Income Plus 10

F&G’s payout rate is a whopping 12.47% – more than the average annual gains of the S&P 500, including dividend reinvestment. Remember that this income payout is guaranteed, so payments continue until death, regardless of whether the annuity’s principal is exhausted.

Read the full product review of this annuity.


Product Alert:
Nationwide New Heights 12 Fixed Indexed Annuity

A rare exception, the Nationwide New Heights 12 is a fixed indexed annuity offering both a competitive index participation rate for growth and a competitive guaranteed income rider.

Read the full product review of this annuity.


Product Alert: Athene Agility 7 &
Athene Protector 5 Fixed Indexed Annuities

Both of these fixed-indexed annuities have generous investment terms and no long-term commitment due to their lower than average surrender periods.

Read the full product review of this annuity.


Product Alert: Pacific Life Index Edge 5 &
Index Dimensions 10 Fixed Indexed Annuities

There Isn’t Always a Catch When You Buy an Annuity from a Top-Rated Insurer. Pacific Life offers a fixed indexed annuity (FIA) with an attractive and rare surrender period of only five years and another FIA that offers more generous terms
in an otherwise standard product with a typical 10-year surrender period.

Read the full product review of this annuity.


Product Alert: AIG Assured Edge Income Builder

Watch Somerset Wealth Strategies CEO Tom Hamlin explain the benefits of the AIG Assured Edge Income Builder, a Fixed Annuity with a Guaranteed Lifetime Withdrawal Benefit.

Contact Annuity FYI for more information at 1-866-223-2121 or

Consider Some Novel FIAs That May Fit Your Bill in Highly Uncertain 2019

By Steve Kaufman

So we’re in a new year and after months of procrastination you’ve decided to take the plunge and purchase an annuity. But which type – or, more precisely, which one exactly? Never an easy decision, it’s tougher than usual this year – unless you’re thoroughly conservative – because of significant uncertainty regarding the outlook for the U.S. economy and hence the stock market.

Will the Federal Reserve overdo it and raise interest rates too much, triggering a substantial economic slowdown? Will the trade war between the U.S. and China continue unabated and inflict growing economic damage on both countries? Will economic growth in Europe and Japan continue at a snail’s pace and significantly curb U.S. exports to those markets?

And regardless of the outcome of the U.S. – China trade war, what about the global implications of festering economic growth in China – the world’s second-biggest economy?

The most conservative annuity buyers opt for plain-vanilla fixed annuities, and this is hardly an unwise move. A six-year fixed annuity is now paying 4.1%, far above what a bank CD pays and, for that matter, materially higher than the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury bond. Many investors, however, prefer to beat this by a percentage point or two and typically look to a fixed indexed annuity (FIA) to do so because it offers an enticing lure – stock market exposure with no losses in a down market.

There is a downside, of course. While you lose no money in a down market, you also earn nothing – far worse than pocketing a respectable return from a fixed annuity.

What to do? Consider all your options, which today are broader than ever.

You could go with a good, conventional FIA and not worry about what the market will do in 2019, knowing that this is a long-term investment and so it doesn’t much matter if the stock market falters. For that matter, it’s probably OK even should it decline in 2020 as well. You can also opt for a FIA that allows you to combine stock market exposure with a fixed-rate, no-risk supplement- — and for no fee.
If you’re really bearish, you can also take a page from options traders and invest in a newish type of FIA that will reward you for betting on a down market.

Here is a description of annuities that fit these options:

  • Invest in a conventional FIA that offers an unusually generous participation rate on the S&P 500 index (54%) without a cap and without any fees. The minimum investment is only $5,000. These days, some people prefer to invest instead in a so-called low-volatility FIA, which invests in bonds and commodities as well as stocks, typically lowering returns but also generally providing more stable performance.

    These FIAs are relatively complicated, however, and most annuity buyers prefer simplicity. “It’s harder to track multiple indexes, and most people prefer the plain-Jane S&P 500,” says a financial advisor abreast of the annuity world. “This particular FIA is simpler and offers more growth potential. And, best of all, it boasts the best S&P 500 participation rate on the market.”

  • Invest in a largely conventional FIA that offers a respectable S&P 500 participation rate of 42% as well as the opportunity to put a chunk of your investment in a fixed rate bucket paying 3% a year for no fee, enabling you to hedge your bet on the stock market.

    This annuity, which has a minimum requirement of $10,000, has a relatively short seven-year surrender schedule. If you think there is still a chance you might want to bow out sooner, you can do so without penalty by paying a fee of less than half a percentage point a year.

  • Take a flyer and buy a FIA that rewards you in a bad market. For a minimum investment of $100,000, one product will pay you 8.7% in a year in which the S&P 500 stays flat or declines even marginally. This is known as an inverse performance trigger (IPT). “This product is for those who think we’re heading into another financial crisis,” says the financial advisor.

    This is another case in which folks can invest in this annuity and also place some of their money on a more conventional track, such as pocketing 50% of the increase of the S&P 500, without a cap. This would help offset the fact that investors in this product receive nothing if the market rises.

    Those who don’t want to invest $100,000 in this product can instead invest as little as $5,000 in exchange for a lower 8.1% return in a down market and a 45% S&P 500 participation rate on the supplemental, more conventional option.

  • Make a roughly similar bet on another FIA offering an IPT that will give investors a return of up to 11% if the S&P 500 falls as much as 12 ¼ %. (The difference reflects a required annual fee of 1 ¼ %.) The more the market drops, the more the annuity owner receives, until reaching the cap.

    A substantial caveat regarding this FIA is that an increase in the S&P 500 requires debiting your account value. This is a sharp contrast to most FIAs, which do not penalize owners in a down market.
    “This annuity is only for people who want to bet that the market will take a huge hit this year,” the financial advisor says. “They have to be very, very confident that they will turn out to be right.”

    The minimum investment in this FIA is $10,000.

As always, the best path forward for any investor is ultimately his or her decision. It boils down to your risk orientation and your sense of how the U.S. economy will perform in 2019. Just bear in mind that things can change on a dime along the way — and that ultimately nobody knows how the stock market will do this year.

Annuity FYI Product Alert: Athene Ascent Accumulator 10

The Athene Ascent Accumulator 10 is a Fixed Indexed Annuity with a wide variety of index crediting strategies and exclusive indices providing strong growth potential.

Update* Since this product alert video was filmed, the BNP Paribas participation rate went from 170% to 185%!

Watch Somerset Wealth Strategies CEO Tom Hamlin make the case for the highly recommended Athene Ascent Accumulator 10.


Product Alert: Pacific Life Index Edge 10

The Pacific Life Index Edge 10 is a Fixed Indexed Annuity with a very high performing S&P 500 Strategy with no market risk and very low credit risk.

Watch Somerset Wealth Strategies CEO Tom Hamlin explain the benefits of the Pacific Life Index Edge 10 in this Annuity FYI Video Product Alert.


A Boost in the Roll-Up Rate Makes This FIA More Generous Than the Competition

By Steve Kaufman

As Annuity FYI has noted time and again, you need to do your homework before you buy an annuity. Even annuities in the same category, such as popular fixed income annuities (FIAs), typically differ in significant ways and in their withdrawal rates if you purchase a lifetime income guarantee.

Choosing the FIA with the best lifetime withdrawal guarantee isn’t nearly as simple as choosing the one with the highest advertised withdrawal rate.

A case in point is an established FIA that has just increased its so-called roll-up rate to 7.5%, up from 7%. This is the key reason it is probably the top income-paying FIA in the business. (The interest is compounded, which makes this rate even more valuable.) In terms of what an annuity owner ultimately collects, the roll-up rate is often as important as the withdrawal rate.

If you are interested in this product, please call 1-866-223-2121 or complete the form below.

In the case of this FIA, a single 65-year-old man who doesn’t withdraw funds for a few years from the annuity would benefit from both the higher roll-up rate and a competitive 5.5% withdrawal rate. Other FIAs match the withdrawal rate, but not the roll-up rate.

The latter raises the annuity’s income base — the number used to calculate your guaranteed annual income. It does so by adding a specific percentage for each year you don’t withdraw money from the contract. The roll-up works much like Social Security – once you qualify for benefits at age 62, the longer you wait to collect them, the more you get (until age 70).

Here is another way to look at this: What really counts in an annuity with an income rider is the amount of your guaranteed minimum income in retirement. If annuity A grows faster than annuity B during your savings years, due to a higher roll-up rate, it could pay more out when you retire – even if annuity B has the higher withdrawal rate.

It isn’t uncommon for a FIA to change its roll-up rate or withdrawal rate – or to alter other terms, for that matter. What is common, however, is that FIAs periodically increase one rate and trim the other, leaving no net benefit for many new purchasers. In the case of the FIA we are spotlighting, this isn’t happening – and that’s why it’s so appealing.

Will other FIAs follow suit?

Unfortunately, this is unclear. You might think they would be improving their terms because interest rates have been steadily rising, and, in fact, most plain vanilla fixed annuities have been increasing rates. FIAs are more complicated, however. For example, they participate in the stock market by purchasing index options, and these have been increasing in price in tandem with unusually sharp market volatility. If this continues, it drains the use of funds for other purposes.

Roll-ups are common in variable annuities, as well as FIAs. If you opt for one of these with an income rider, it would obviously be wiser to buy one a bit earlier in life – say in your late 50s – boosting your withdrawals down the road by parking money in the annuity longer. Unfortunately, research has shown that many annuity contract owners make relatively little use of roll-ups.

Also important to note is that many people seem to believe that the roll-up in the income base is the same as the appreciation of the account value of the annuity. It is not. The roll-up has no effect on account value, which is the actual market value of the annuity’s underlying assets. The roll-up rate is solely about fattening the income base.

New FIA is Offering a 70% Index Participation Rate

By Steve Kaufman

If you’re attracted to annuities and, unlike many, favor growth over income, a new fixed indexed annuity (FIA) – and one with only a seven-year surrender schedule – may be right up your alley.

This FIA offers a 70% participation rate on the S&P 500 – at least 20 basis points higher than most and the most generous offering in the market. There is a catch – it comes with a 2% spread. So if the market in a given year rises, say, 10%, you would get credited as though it rose 8%. Still, this product will always beat the competition if the S&P 500 market rises at least 10%.

Prospective buyers have to decide if they’re fundamentally bullish about the stock market going forward, especially since this FIA’s lifetime income rider option isn’t particularly attractive.

“Most FIAs are good for growth or good for income, but not both,” says one wealth management expert familiar with the product. “So you have to decide which approach you prefer.”

The minimum investment for this FIA — whose insurance company issuer is rated A+ by A.M. Best — is $25,000. The seven-year surrender schedule means that owners of this FIA can liquidate their investment years earlier than most FIAs without penalty.

What most investors probably want to weigh, of course, are the odds that the S&P 500 will rise at least 10% annually without dividends. Relatively recent history suggests that the odds are strong. The S&P 500 rose more than 10% ten times in the last twenty years. Six times, the return was negative, which means that this FIA – like all FIAs – would have beaten the market, if not other FIAs, because FIAs don’t penalize investors when there are losses.

The flip side is that a number of market pros believe that the nearly 10-year-old bull market will face a correction or worse sooner than later and also that market returns will be below par over the next 10 years. This is primarily because the market is pricey and because the strong U.S. economy is widely expected to slow back down to a modest 2% annual growth rate in coming years, undermining profit growth potential. As it is, S&P 500 companies just reported unusually robust quarterly earnings growth and yet the market rose only modestly.

One counter argument, predictably, is that market pros commonly get the direction of the market wrong. In addition, the cost of buying this FIA and betting wrong on the strength of an up market in a particular year is not high. If the S&P 500 rose, for example, 6%, and you were in a plain-vanilla FIA, you might pocket a 3% gain. With this product, you would instead receive 2.2% — a modest shortfall of $800 on a $100,000 investment.

Those who prefer guaranteed income over growth might want to consider buying a traditional fixed annuity instead of a standard FIA because interest rate payouts have risen roughly half a percentage point in the past year. In addition, they typically have shorter surrender schedules.

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