REPRINT: HOW CAN SO MANY BE SO WRONG ON ANNUITIES? #AnnuityAwarenessMonth
June 8, 2020 by Sheryl Moore
April 13, 2018 by Sheryl J. Moore
Did you know that the biggest fear of Americans age 50 and older is running out of money in retirement?1
Did you know that an annuity is the one financial instrument that can guarantee an income you will never outlive?
Let that sink in. We’ll get back to that in a minute.
Irrespective of this unique supply/demand concept, not many people know about annuities.
Ask someone if they’ve heard of a retirement savings vehicle that can protect their money from market losses, while promising them a guaranteed income for the rest of their life, and they eagerly respond that they are interested. You have their attention! Ask the same person if they’ve heard of an annuity, and they’ll turn up their nose, saying they will never buy one.
The single most frustrating thing about working in this business is how many people get it wrong when it comes to annuities. So frustrating, in fact, that for nearly five years I responded to – and corrected – every negative and inaccurate article on these savings instruments. Sadly, over the past 20 years that I’ve worked in the life insurance business, I’ve observed a slow and systematic miseducation of the general public when it comes to annuities. What I’ve found is that there are generally five reasons the media gets it wrong when it comes to annuities:
1. They see your ads: distributors advertise double-digit commissions; never mind that these products contribute less than 1% of sales. The media see these advertisements being distributed for “all eyes to see,” and assume this is generally descriptive of the entire product class.
2. “Insiders” call you out: we all know who I am talking about here. Get a snappy name like “Kent the Annuity Gent” or “Klinger the Annuity Slinger,” bash annuities on a national platform (see #5), and everyone is quoting you. Never mind that your methods scream, “Annuity salespeople are scary! These “experts” seem to make up a lot of their information, and brush the industry with one bad, broad stroke just to steer sales their way.
3. They don’t know who to ask: financial experts don’t want to say, “I’m not the guy to ask about annuities, just mutual funds,” so they go on the record about things that they shouldn’t opine on. Half the time these so-called experts are the people competing for the same dollars as annuity salespeople! The journalists don’t know that they aren’t experts, and therefore have no reason to question their credibility.
4. They source other misinformation: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve corrected a journalist, and had them say, “Well, I read that in a Wall Street Journal article, so it must be credible?” Which leads me to…
5. They bash annuities because it benefits their advertisers: consider the source, folks. If three-quarters of a magazine’s advertisers sell mutual funds, but not annuities, they have a credibility problem. Of course, they are going to bash annuities! They want to keep those ad dollars coming in!
I stopped working in a home office 13 years ago and started my company as a struggling single mom because I believe in annuities. I lost tons of money in my 401(k) when the dot-com bubble burst, not knowing “annuities” even existed. Oh, how I wish I had bought an annuity instead! I needlessly put my retirement savings at risk, when I could have been protected from the loss of a single penny!
How many other people do you think there are out there who feel the same way?
Look, annuities are not right for everyone. And no one should have all their retirement savings in an annuity. However, annuities are the only financial services product that is in a position to address the top fear of our nation’s aging population. I don’t know about all of you, but I hear a rallying cry for educating consumers on annuities!
Sheryl Moore is President and CEO of Moore Market Intelligence, an indexed product resource in Des Moines, Iowa, as well as the market research firm of Wink, Inc. Her companies provide competitive intelligence, market research, product development, consulting services and insight to select financial services companies. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 MarketWatch 7/21/16: “Older people fear this more than death” https://www.marketwatch.com/story/older-people-fear-this-more-than-death-2016-07-18