How Much Annual Income Can Your Retirement Portfolio Provide?

Your retirement lifestyle will depend not only on your assets and investment choices, but also on how quickly you draw down your retirement portfolio. The annual percentage that you take out of your portfolio, whether from returns or the principal itself, is known as your withdrawal rate. Figuring out an appropriate initial withdrawal rate is a key issue in retirement planning and presents many challenges.

Why is your withdrawal rate important?

Take out too much too soon, and you might run out of money in your later years. Take out too little, and you might not enjoy your retirement years as much as you could. Your withdrawal rate is especially important in the early years of your retirement; how your portfolio is structured then and how much you take out can have a significant impact on how long your savings will last.

Gains in life expectancy have been dramatic. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, people today can expect to live more than 30 years longer than they did a century ago. Individuals who reached age 65 in 1950 could anticipate living an average of 14 years more, to age 79; now a 65-year-old might expect to live for roughly an additional 19 years. Assuming rising inflation, your projected annual income in retirement will need to factor in those cost-of-living increases. That means you’ll need to think carefully about how to structure your portfolio to provide an appropriate withdrawal rate, especially in the early years of retirement.

Current Life Expectancy Estimates

  Men Women
At birth 76.4 81.2

 

At age 65 83.0 85.5

Source: NCHS Data Brief, Number 229, December 2015

Conventional wisdom

So what withdrawal rate should you expect from your retirement savings? The answer: it all depends. The seminal study on withdrawal rates for tax-deferred retirement accounts (William P. Bengen, “Determining Withdrawal Rates Using Historical Data,” Journal of Financial Planning, October 1994) looked at the annual performance of hypothetical portfolios that are continually rebalanced to achieve a 50-50 mix of large-cap (S&P 500 Index) common stocks and intermediate-term Treasury notes. The study took into account the potential impact of major financial events such as the early Depression years, the stock decline of 1937-1941, and the 1973-1974 recession. It found that a withdrawal rate of slightly more than 4% would have provided inflation-adjusted income for at least 30 years.

Other later studies have shown that broader portfolio diversification, rebalancing strategies, variable inflation rate assumptions, and being willing to accept greater uncertainty about your annual income and how long your retirement nest egg will be able to provide an income also can have a significant impact on initial withdrawal rates. For example, if you’re unwilling to accept a 25% chance that your chosen strategy will be successful, your sustainable initial withdrawal rate may need to be lower than you’d prefer to increase your odds of getting the results you desire. Conversely, a higher withdrawal rate might mean greater uncertainty about whether you risk running out of money. However, don’t forget that studies of withdrawal rates are based on historical data about the performance of various types of investments in the past. Given market performance in recent years, many experts are suggesting being more conservative in estimating future returns.

Note: Past results don’t guarantee future performance. All investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal, and there can be no guarantee that any investing strategy will be successful.

Inflation is a major consideration

To better understand why suggested initial withdrawal rates aren’t higher, it’s essential to think about how inflation can affect your retirement income. Here’s a hypothetical illustration; to keep it simple, it does not account for the impact of any taxes. If a $1 million portfolio is invested in an account that yields 5%, it provides $50,000 of annual income. But if annual inflation pushes prices up by 3%, more income–$51,500–would be needed next year to preserve purchasing power. Since the account provides only $50,000 income, an additional $1,500 must be withdrawn from the principal to meet expenses. That principal reduction, in turn, reduces the portfolio’s ability to produce income the following year. In a straight linear model, principal reductions accelerate, ultimately resulting in a zero portfolio balance after 25 to 27 years, depending on the timing of the withdrawals.

Volatility and portfolio longevity

When setting an initial withdrawal rate, it’s important to take a portfolio’s ups and downs into account—and the need for a relatively predictable income stream in retirement isn’t the only reason. According to several studies done in the late 1990s and updated in 2011 by Philip L. Cooley, Carl M. Hubbard, and Daniel T. Walz, the more dramatic a portfolio’s fluctuations, the greater the odds that the portfolio might not last as long as needed. If it becomes necessary during market downturns to sell some securities in order to continue to meet a fixed withdrawal rate, selling at an inopportune time could affect a portfolio’s ability to generate future income.

Making your portfolio either more aggressive or more conservative will affect its lifespan. A more aggressive portfolio may produce higher returns but might also be subject to a higher degree of loss. A more conservative portfolio might produce steadier returns at a lower rate, but could lose purchasing power to inflation.

Calculating an appropriate withdrawal rate

Your withdrawal rate needs to take into account many factors, including (but not limited to) your asset allocation, projected inflation rate, expected rate of return, annual income targets, investment horizon, and comfort with uncertainty. The higher your withdrawal rate, the more you’ll have to consider whether it is sustainable over the long term.

Ultimately, however, there is no standard rule of thumb; every individual has unique retirement goals, means, and circumstances that come into play.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Albert Aizin, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, Bank of America, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Albert Aizin is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

 

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Have You Checked Your Retirement Plan Lately?

It’s generally a good idea to review your employer-sponsored retirement savings plan at least once each year and when major life changes occur. If you haven’t given your plan a thorough review within the last 12 months, now may be a good time to do so.

Have you experienced any life changes?

Since your last retirement plan review, have you experienced any major life changes?

For example, did you get married or divorced, buy or sell a house, have a baby, or send a child to college? Perhaps you or your spouse changed jobs, received a promotion, or left the workforce entirely. Has someone in your family experienced a change in health? Or maybe you inherited a sum of money that has had a material impact on your net worth. Any of these situations can affect both your current and future financial situation and should be considered as you review your retirement savings needs.

In addition, your annual review is a good time to examine the beneficiary designations on your plan account to make sure they reflect your current wishes. This is particularly true if your marital situation has changed. With most employer-sponsored plans, your spouse is automatically your plan beneficiary unless he or she waives that right in writing.

Say, for example, you remarried and you would like your children to remain as primary beneficiaries on your retirement plan. In that case, your spouse would need to waive his or her right to the assets in writing.

Reassess your retirement income needs

After you consider any life changes, you may want to take another look at your future and evaluate whether your anticipated retirement income needs have changed.

Have your dreams for retirement changed? And if so, will those changes affect how much money you will need to live on? Maybe you’ve reconsidered plans to relocate or travel extensively, or now plan to start a business or work part-time during retirement. Or maybe your health or your spouse’s health has changed and you need to adjust your estimates for health-care costs down the road.

All of these factors can affect your retirement income needs, which in turn affects how much you need to save and how you invest today. Double-check your total accumulation goal and determine whether you will need to adust your savings or investment plan to strive for different amounts.

Reexamine your risk tolerance

In any long-term investment plan, you can generally expect that there will be times of uncertainty that will cause you to question your investment decisions. Following periods of prolonged increases in the markets, it’s not unusual to experience corrections or even bear markets.

When you hear media reports about stock market volatility, is your immediate reaction to consider selling some or all of the stock investments in your plan account? If that’s the case, you might want to revisit your risk tolerance.

Risk tolerance refers to how well you can ride out fluctuations in the value of your investments while pursuing your long-term goals. An assessment of your risk tolerance considers, among other factors, your investment time horizon, your accumulation goal, and assets you may have outside of your plan. If your time horizon is decades or you have a lot of assets outside of your plan, your investment risk tolerance might be higher than someone who is less than 10 years from retirement or has little other savings.

There are many tools available to help you evaluate your risk tolerance. These are typically questionnaires that ask about your personal financial situation and your opinions on various investing scenarios. After answering the questions, you will likely be assigned a risk-tolerance ranking, such as conservative, moderate, or aggressive. In addition, suggested asset allocations are often provided for consideration.

Is your asset allocation still on track?

Once you have assessed your current situation related to life changes, retirement income needs, and your risk tolerance, a good next step is to revisit your asset allocation.

Is your investment mix still appropriate? Should you aim for a higher or lower percentage of aggressive investments, such as stocks?

For example, if you’ve determined that you will probably need to accumulate more than you originally estimated, you can strive for this new goal by increasing your contribution dollars, striving for a higher return, or both.

To strive for a higher return, you might consider investing a larger portion of your money in stocks. Alternatively, if you determined that you do indeed have a hard time sleeping at night when the stock market is volatile, you may want to consider investing a larger portion of your portfolio in less risky asset classes, such as bonds and cash.

Regaining your balance

On the other hand, maybe you’ve concluded through your review that your original asset allocation is still appropriate for your needs, but your portfolio has strayed off track due to market performance. In this case, there are two ways to “rebalance” your portfolio. The quickest way is to sell investments in which you are overweighted and invest the proceeds in underweighted assets until you hit your target. For example, if your target allocation is 75% stocks, 20% bonds, and 5% cash but your current allocation is 80% stocks, 15% bonds, and 5% cash, then you’d likely sell some stock investments and invest the proceeds in bonds.

Another way to rebalance is to direct new investments into the underweighted asset classes until the target is achieved. Using the example above, you would direct new contribution dollars into bond investments until you reach your 75/20/5 target allocation. Then you would adjust your allocation for future contributions back to that original allocation. This process may take a little longer, helping you ease back to your original target, but the same result will be achieved.

Revisit your plan rules and features

Finally, an annual review would not be complete without a fresh look at your employer-sponsored plan documents. Check those documents to make sure you fully understand how your plan works, and to see if there are any additional plan features that can help you better pursue your retirement savings goal. For example, if your plan offers a Roth account and you haven’t investigated its potential benefits, you might consider whether directing a portion of your contributions into it might be a good idea. Roth accounts do not offer a tax benefit at the time you contribute, but qualified withdrawals are tax free.¹ Also consider how much you’re contributing in relation to plan maximums. Could you add a little more each pay period? If you increase your contribution by just a percentage point or two, you may not even notice the difference in your paycheck. But over time, that small amount can potentially add up through the magic of compounding.

If you’re 50 or older, you might also review the rules for catch-up contributions, which allow those approaching retirement to contribute more than younger employees. (Special rules apply to 403(b) and 457(b) plans.)

A little maintenance goes a long way

Although it’s generally not a good idea to monitor your employer-sponsored retirement plan on a daily, or even monthly, basis, it’s important to take a look at least once a year to account for any changes in your life, your retirement income needs, or your risk tolerance and make any necessary changes to your asset allocation. You’ll also want to make sure you’re taking full advantage of the opportunities offered with your plan, if they make sense for you. With a little annual maintenance, you can help keep your plan on track.

¹A qualified withdrawal from a Roth account is one that is made after a five-year holding period and you either die, become disabled, or reach age 59½. Nonqualified withdrawals from Roth accounts are subject to regular income tax and a 10% tax penalty (to the extent the withdrawal represent s earnings).

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Albert Aizin, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent, Verizon or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Albert Aizin is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

 

Guaranteed Lifetime Withdrawal Benefit Annuity Rider

Indexed annuities (also referred to as fixed-index or equity-indexed annuities) and variable annuities can be useful options for retirement savings because interest earnings are tax-deferred until withdrawn. These annuities can also be converted to a stream of income payments that can last for the rest of your life (annuitization). However, annuitization generally requires that you exchange your annuity account balance for income payments. Due to growing demand for additional income options, many issuers are offering a rider, called a guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit (GLWB), to variable annuities and fixed-index annuities that allows you to get lifetime income payments while continuing to have access to the annuity’s remaining cash value.

Here’s how it works 

There are different variations of the GLWB rider, depending on the issuer offering it. Typically, a GLWB rider subjects the annuity owner to a fee for the rider, and specific age restrictions or income limitations. However, most issuers incorporate some common features. Your annuity premium is invested in subaccounts (with a variable annuity) or earns interest (with a fixed-index annuity). Thereafter, you can elect to receive annual withdrawals from the annuity that last for the rest of your life (minimum guaranteed withdrawal). The amount of the withdrawal is determined by applying a percentage (withdrawal percentage) to the premium or the cash value, whichever is greater at the time of your election. Withdrawals are subtracted from the cash value. The amount of the withdrawal will not decrease, even if the cash value decreases or is exhausted.

For example, you invest $100,000 in a variable annuity with a withdrawal percentage of 5%. In five years, you elect to begin receiving minimum guaranteed withdrawals, but the cash value is worth only $80,000 (due to poor subaccount performance). The withdrawal percentage (5%) is applied to your premium ($100,000) since it is greater than the cash value at the time of your election. Your minimum guaranteed withdrawal is $5,000 per year ($100,000 x 5%).*

Some issuers apply a minimum rate of return to your premium (minimum income value) apart from your cash value. In this case, the withdrawal percentage is applied to the greater of your minimum income value or your cash value to determine your guaranteed minimum withdrawal. This option ensures that the amount of your minimum guaranteed withdrawal increases each year you defer receiving withdrawals.

To illustrate, use the same facts as the previous example, but include a minimum income value of 6% per year applied to your premium ($100,000). When you elect to receive withdrawals, the minimum income value is $133,823 ($100,000 x 6% per year x 5 years). Since this value is greater than your cash value ($80,000), the withdrawal percentage (5%) is applied to the minimum income value yielding a minimum guaranteed withdrawal of $6,691 per year ($133,823 x 5%).*

*Examples are for illustration purposes only and do not reflect the actual performance of a specific product or investment.

Issuers may also increase your guaranteed minimum withdrawal by increasing the withdrawal percentage as the age at which you elect to begin receiving withdrawals increases. For example, the withdrawal percentage could be 5% if you start withdrawals at age 55, 7% at age 70, and 8% at age 80.

However, if you exceed the allowable withdrawal amount, you may adversely affect your ability to continue receiving guaranteed income payments. Consequently, you should carefully evaluate your specific financial needs and objectives in addition to the specific restrictions and limitations of a GLWB option.

Caution: Annuity guarantees, including guarantees associated with benefit riders, are based on the claims-paying ability and financial strength of the annuity issuer and may be limited. Annuity withdrawals made prior to age 59½ may be subject to a 10% federal tax penalty.

The step-up feature

It’s possible the GLWB payments can increase over time if the issuer includes a step-up feature with the rider. At certain intervals (e.g., once a year), the issuer compares the annuity’s current cash value to the value used to determine your minimum guaranteed withdrawal. If the current value is greater, the issuer applies the withdrawal percentage to the current, higher value, thus increasing your minimum guaranteed withdrawals.

Access to the cash value

Most issuers allow you to take money from your cash value, even if you are also receiving GLWB withdrawals. However, some issuers reduce subsequent GLWB withdrawals in proportion to the amount you take from the cash value. For example, you have a cash value of $100,000 and your guaranteed withdrawals are $5,000 per year. One year you withdraw an additional 10% ($10,000) from the cash value. Correspondingly, your later GLWB payments will be reduced by 10% to $4,500.

Death benefit

Unless altered by a death benefit provision or rider, annuities with the GLWB rider usually pay a death benefit equal to the greater of the remaining cash value, or the remaining premium, if any, less withdrawals and applicable surrender charges. Generally, GLWB withdrawals are available only to the annuity owner and not his/her beneficiaries, unless the beneficiary is the owner’s surviving spouse, in which case the withdrawals may be continued for the benefit of the spouse.

GLWB costs

Issuers generally charge an annual fee for the GLWB rider, usually as a percentage of the annuity’s cash value. Also, the step-up feature associated with a GLWB may subject the annuity owner to an increased cost in addition to the regular fee charged for GLWB option. Thus, you should consider this fact when evaluating such a feature. Review annuity sales materials, the prospectus, and the contract for information on charges and fees.

Some other living benefit riders

The GLWB is one of many living benefit riders available on some annuities that provides a minimum accumulation value or income. As with most annuity riders, they may differ depending on the issuer offering them. Also, since these benefits are offered as riders, there is usually a charge associated with each one.

Guaranteed minimum payments benefit

The guaranteed minimum payments benefit allows you to recover your total premium through annual payments from your annuity, even if the cash value is less than the premium due to poor market performance (and not withdrawals).

Guaranteed minimum income benefit

The guaranteed minimum income benefit pays a minimum yearly income even if your annuity decreases in value due to poor subaccount performance. But you must own the annuity for a minimum number of years before exercising the rider, and you must exchange the cash value of the annuity in return for the minimum payments (annuitization).

Guaranteed accumulation benefit

This rider guarantees the return of your premium (less withdrawals) regardless of the actual investment performance of your annuity subaccounts at the end of a stated period of time.

Is it right for you?

The GLWB rider can be a good idea if you want a fixed income but don’t like the idea of giving up access to your money that annuitization requires. However, like all deferred annuities, they are intended as long-term investments, suitable for retirement funding. The annuity’s cash value may be subject to market fluctuations and investment risk. In addition, GLWB withdrawals are subtracted from the annuity’s cash value.

Caution: Based on the guarantees of the issuing company, it may be possible to lose money with this type of investment. Any guaranteed minimum rate of return is contingent upon holding the indexed annuity until the end of the term.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Albert Aizin, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, Alcatel-Lucent, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Albert Aizin is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

Annuities as an IRA Investment Option

A deferred annuity is one of several investment options you can choose from to fund your IRA. You might think that a deferred annuity isn’t suitable as an investment option for an IRA, since both deferred annuities and IRAs generally provide for the deferral of income taxes on earnings until they’re withdrawn. However, there are several reasons, aside from tax deferral, that may make a deferred annuity a sound funding choice for your IRA.

Common features of IRAs and deferred annuities 

IRAs and deferred annuities share several common features. Both IRAs and deferred annuities:

  • Provide for the deferral of income taxes on gains (interest, dividends, and earnings) within the account until withdrawn
  • Offer varying degrees of creditor protection based on particular state law
  • Are intended as long-term savings options
  • Subject the account owner to early withdrawal penalties unless an exception applies

Many deferred variable annuities offer a variety of investment options called subaccounts within which you can allocate your premium payments. A variable annuity’s subaccount choices will be described in detail in the fund prospectus provided by the issuer. However, you assume all the risk related to subaccount performance, and while you could experience positive growth in the subaccounts, it’s also possible that the subaccounts will perform poorly and you may lose money, including principal.

Nevertheless, many variable annuities allow you to reallocate among available subaccounts without cost or restriction. This feature provides you with investment flexibility, because each subaccount is typically based on a different investment strategy. Asset allocation is a method used to help manage investment risk; it does not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss.

But, the common features shared by deferred annuities and IRAs do not necessarily make them mutually exclusive. 

Income

Deferred annuities offer the opportunity to annuitize the account, which involves exchanging the cash value of the deferred annuity for a stream of income payments that can last for the lifetimes of the contract owner and his or her spouse. That can help in retirement by providing a steady, reliable income. But converting your account to an income stream means you’re generally locked into those payments unless the annuity provides a commuted benefit option allowing you to “cash out” the balance of your income payments.

Another income option offered by some deferred annuities provides guaranteed* income payments without relinquishing the entire cash value of the annuity. The guaranteed* lifetime withdrawal benefit allows you to receive an annual income for the rest of your life without having to annuitize the annuity’s entire cash value.

Some deferred annuities offer a rider that provides you with a minimum income equal to no less than your premium payments less prior withdrawals. With this rider, you are assured of receiving minimum income payments based on the premiums you paid into your annuity, even if the annuity’s accumulation value has dipped below your investment in the contract due to poor investment performance. 

Principal protection

Deferred annuities may offer protection of your principal. Fixed deferred annuities guarantee* our principal and a minimum rate of interest as declared in the contract when you buy the annuity. However, the interest rate the annuity pays may actually exceed the minimum rate and may last for a certain period of time, such as one year, after which the rate may change.

Deferred variable annuities also may offer principal protection through riders attached to the basic annuity (annuity riders typically come with an additional cost). For example, a common annuity rider restores your annuity’s accumulation value to the amount of your total premiums paid if, after a prescribed number of years, the accumulation value is less than the premiums you paid (excluding any withdrawals). 

Death benefit

Another benefit offered by some deferred annuities is a death benefit guaranteed* to equal at least your investment in the contract. Most annuity death benefits provide that if you die prior to converting your account to a stream of income payments (annuitization), your annuity beneficiaries will receive an amount equal to your investment in the contract (less any withdrawals you may have taken) or the accumulation value, whichever is greater.

Why an annuity might not be a good idea 

Fees: Some deferred annuities charge mortality and expense fees in addition to other fees that may be greater than fees charged in other investments. Specifically, deferred annuities may charge fees for a death benefit, minimum income rider, and principal protection.

Required minimum distributions: As an owner of a traditional IRA, you are required to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) beginning at age 70½. Deferred annuities outside of IRAs do not have this requirement. So buying an annuity within an IRA now adds the RMD requirement to the annuity.

Surrender charges: Deferred annuities come with surrender charges, which charge a penalty for taking withdrawals from the annuity prior to maturity. These surrender charges may make deferred annuities less liquid than some other types of investments.

However, many deferred annuities waive surrender charges for withdrawals up to a certain amount, such as 10% of the account value; for RMDs; for withdrawals based on a guaranteed* minimum withdrawal rider; and if the annuity is annuitized into a stream of payments. 

Tax deferral: Deferred annuities offer deferral of income taxes on gains and earnings of account values within the annuity. IRAs also offer tax deferral of gains and earnings. So, you are receiving no additional income tax benefit by investing in a deferred annuity through an IRA. 

Is an annuity right for you?

Some deferred annuities afford benefits that may not be available in other types of investments, making annuities an option to consider for your IRA. However, most of these benefits come at a cost that can reduce your account value. Before funding your IRA with a deferred annuity, talk to your financial professional. You’ll want to know:

  • Does the annuity have surrender charges and if so, how much are the charges? Is there any amount I can withdraw from the annuity (such as required minimum distributions) without incurring surrender charges?
  • Can the annuity decrease in value? Are there any options available in the annuity to protect my investment?
  • What are the benefit options and what are their costs? Are there any other fees or charges that apply to the annuity?
  • What is the financial strength of the company issuing the annuity? If annuity benefits fit your financial plan, a deferred annuity may be a good option for your IRA. 

Note: Variable annuities are sold by prospectus. Variable annuities contain fees and charges including, but not limited to, mortality and expense risk charges, sales and surrender (early withdrawal) charges, administrative fees, and charges for optional benefits and riders. You should consider the investment objectives, risk, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the variable annuity, can be obtained from the insurance company issuing the variable annuity or from your financial professional. You should read the prospectus carefully before you invest. 

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Albert Aizin, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Albert Aizin is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

The ABCs of Mutual Fund Share Classes

When investing in a mutual fund, you may have the opportunity to choose among several share classes, most commonly Class A, Class B, and Class C. This multi-class structure offers you the opportunity to select a share class that is best suited to your investment goals. The only differences among these share classes typically revolve around how much you will be charged for buying the fund, when you will pay any sales charges that apply, and the amount you will pay in annual fees and expenses.

Understanding fees and expenses

Before you can compare share classes, you need to understand the costs that are associated with mutual funds, since these costs are usually deducted from the money you’ve invested and can affect the return of your investment over time.

Typically, mutual fund costs consist of sales charges and annual expenses. The sales charge, often called a load, is the broker’s commission deducted from your investment when you buy the fund or when you sell it. The annual expenses are asset-based fees that cover the fund’s operating costs, including management fees, service fees, and 12b-1 fees (which cover distribution and marketing expenses). The expenses are generally computed as a percentage of your assets and then deducted from the fund before the fund’s returns are calculated.

So which share class should you choose? The answer to that depends on two factors: how much you want to invest and your investment time horizon.

Class A shares

Class A shares may appeal to you if you’re considering a long-term investment in a large number of shares. When you purchase Class A shares, a sales charge, called a front-end load, is typically deducted upfront, reducing the amount of your investment. Suppose you decide to spend $35,000 on Class A shares with a hypothetical front-end 5% sales load. You will be charged $1,750, and the remaining $33,250 will be invested.

However, Class A shares also offer you discounts, called breakpoints, on the front-end load if you buy shares in excess of a certain dollar amount. Typically, a fund will offer several breakpoints; the more you invest, the greater the reduction in the sales load. For example, a mutual fund may charge a load of 5% if you invest less than $50,000, but reduce that load to 4.5% if you invest at least $50,000 but less than $100,000. This means that if you invest $49,000, you’ll pay $2,450 in sales charges, but if you invest $50,000 (i.e., you reach the first breakpoint), you’ll pay only $2,250 in sales charges.

Comparing Share Classes

 

  Class A shares Class B shares Class C shares
Front-end load Initial sales charge. Can be reduced or eliminated by breakpoint discounts. None None
Contingent deferred sales charge (CDSC) None Declines over several years Typically lower than Class B, and eliminated after 1 year
12b-1 fees Typically lower than Class B and C shares Typically higher than Class A shares Typically higher than Class A shares
Converts to Class A shares N/A After several years, thereafter reducing expenses Generally Class C shares don’t convert to Class A shares

 

You may also qualify for breakpoint discounts by signing a letter of intent to purchase additional shares within a certain period of time (generally 13 months), or by combining your current purchase with other investment holdings that you, your spouse, and/or your children have within the same fund or family of funds (called a right of accumulation). Since rules vary, read your fund’s prospectus to find out how you may qualify for available breakpoint discounts, or contact your financial professional for more information.

Also, 12b-1 fees on Class A shares tend to be lower than those of other share classes, reducing your overall costs. This may make Class A shares more attractive if you wish to hold the fund for a long time.

Class B shares

Class B shares may appeal to you if you wish to invest a smaller amount of money for a long period of time. Unlike Class A shares, there is no up-front sales charge, so all of your initial investment is put to work immediately. Instead, Class B shares have a back-end load, often called a contingent deferred sales charge (CDSC), that you pay when you sell your shares. The load usually decreases over time (typically 6 to 8 years), although this varies from fund to fund. By the end of the time period no sales charge applies. At that stage your shares may convert to Class A shares.

For example, suppose you invest $5,000 in Class B shares, with a 5% CDSC that decreases by 1% every year after the second year. If you sell your shares within the first year, you will pay 5% of the value of your assets or the value of the initial investment, whichever is less. If you hold your shares for 8 years, the CDSC may be reduced to zero.

Before you purchase Class B shares, however, make sure that this investment fits in with your overall goals. Class B 12b-1 fees can be considerably higher than those for Class A shares, so the cost of investing large amounts over time might be more than you would like. In addition, you don’t benefit from the breakpoint discounts available with Class A shares, and you must pay the CDSC if you sell your Class B shares within the time limit. You should also keep track of when your shares convert to Class A shares, especially if your account has been transferred from one broker to another.

Class C shares

When you purchase Class C shares, a front-end load is normally not imposed, and the CDSC is generally lower than for Class B shares. This charge is reduced to zero if you hold the shares beyond the CDSC period (typically 12 months). For those reasons Class C shares may be appropriate if you have a large amount to invest and you intend to keep the fund for less than 5 years.

However, the 12b-1 fees are greater for Class C shares than for Class A shares. Unlike Class B shares, these expenses will not decrease during the life of the investment, because C Class shares generally don’t convert to Class A shares. Also, no breakpoints are available for large purchases.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Albert Aizin, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

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Albert Aizin is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.