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Old 03-10-2012, 05:33 AM   #21
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Our trigger to purchase a SPIA is when the rates improve and that won't happen until the long-term treasuries (10 year) stay above 2% for an extended period of time.
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Old 03-10-2012, 08:14 AM   #22
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Thread question: For those of you who consider an annuity as part of your Plan B only, what methodology or trigger(s) do (or did) you plan to use to initiate purchasing an annuity? $ threshold? Age target? Stepwise annuitization? Other? Haven't thought about it yet?
My trigger is finding myself to be in decent health at about age 80-85.

Right now I am 63 and pretty sure I am doing OK for at least the next 20 years. My spending is down below 2%, I have a paid off home and a conservative investing strategy, and SS is yet to come. Sounds pretty good, but like many of us I wonder what the future may hold.

For now, I plan to live on less than 3.5% and not buy an annuity. I still have SS as my "ace in the hole" it could provide at least some help if the market goes south. Of course, SS could vanish too, although I am not expecting for that to happen. I think I am pretty well situated for the next 20 years.

When I am around 80-85, I will prepare more fully for the possibility of living to an extreme old age. At that point I will be better able to assess the state of my health, how I intend to spend the remainder of my life, and how my portfolio is doing. At that point I will consider buying an inflation adjusted immediate lifetime annuity using no more than 25% of my portfolio (at that time). At that age, an annuity should be pretty cheap and I doubt I would have to spend the full 25% to cover my living expenses.

As I see it, the first reason for me to consider an annuity at that age is to provide old age insurance. The second reason is to provide a direct deposit that I can rely upon month after month to pay the bills, as I experience the physical and mental decline of old age. This would be helpful if, like most people, I become less and less able to handle a portfolio on my own during my extreme old age.
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Old 03-10-2012, 11:09 AM   #23
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Thread question: For those of you who consider an annuity as part of your Plan B only, what methodology or trigger(s) do (or did) you plan to use to initiate purchasing an annuity? $ threshold? Age target? Stepwise annuitization? Other? Haven't thought about it yet?
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As I see it, for the annuitization scheme proposed to work out, I would have to utilize exquisite timing in that I would have to catch "a falling knife" just at the right time because a tremendous catastrophe is happening (much worse than what we have seen) and then trust that the markets and the insurance companies are functioning well enough that my few remaining sheckels will result in a solid annuity income stream.
Midpack and ejman's thought processes got me thinking about my situation. I don't know that I had ever formulated a plan B as Midpack suggests, although I have lots of back-ups. But a plan B to include a later possible purchase of an annuity makes some sense. As ejman points out, one reason you might need a plan B is that the markets are plummeting and you need a way to insure your income. When/how do you recognize the right time to jump into an annuity and where do you get the money to do so if your ER stash has taken too big a hit (falling knife analogy)?

In my case, I have over-emphasized conservative (cash-like) investments. While this may (probably WILL) cost me a lot of potential gains, it would seem to set me up ideally for Midpack's Plan B strategy. If the markets plummet or I find myself burning through my conservative port. too quickly, I should still have enough money (and TIME) to invest in an annuity (or more than one). So, perhaps that would be a strategy to implement "Plan B" - keep enough set aside in relatively "market-proof" investments to some day fund an annuity. In my case, I may have already done that by long ago purchasing some SPDAs which have a floor of 4.5%. Annuitizing an SPDA should take a phone call or two.

Just the ravings of a conservative investor with no Plan B, so YMMV.
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Old 03-10-2012, 11:52 AM   #24
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The idea of waiting until a crisis to purchase an annuity seems risky. I can see waiting 5 years or so to see if interest rates improve, although I have read they don't make a huge difference in any event. The other thing I would look at is a deferred annuity set to kick in at 80 or so (i.e. longevity insurance). I recently read an article discussing DIAs that mentioned that you can pick up such insurance at what feels like low costs since many participants will not live to draw anything out. Once you are covered for essentials in old age you could face extinction of your nest egg in the meantime with a bit of equanimity.
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Old 03-10-2012, 12:05 PM   #25
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The idea of waiting until a crisis to purchase an annuity seems risky.
True.

That's why we purchased ours at my ER date, since we could estimate our plan based upon certain "knowns" (such as the SPIA, future pension and SS).

Sure, you can wait till the "stars align" (if ever); we being of the conserative nature decided to base our plans at the minimum, at ER.

Five years in? We have no regrets...

BTW, we are ahead of our plan of five years ago (IOW, we have more retirement portfolio assets today, than at the time of retirement in early 2007). Some luck, of course, but we did get that "pesky" initial annuity decision out of the way early in our retirement and it did tend to stablize our portfolion during the latest downturn ...

The only thing you can count on is the later you decide to execute an annuity (e.g. an SPIA) your payments will be greater than today. Why? Simple - you don't have as many years to collect ... (and it has nothing to do with current interest rates)...

BTW, we do intend to purchase additional SPIA's as our age increases, and our mental abilities (assume) decrease ...
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Old 03-10-2012, 02:51 PM   #26
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Pardon my ignorance but what is an SPIC - does it work the same as an SPIA ?
Sorry, meant SPIA
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Old 03-10-2012, 02:54 PM   #27
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Once again, we're glad for those who are happy with the Plan A annuity decision, however this thread was to invite ideas for Plan B approaches.

Here's the classic example, a 65 yo couple with $1MM planning a 4% SWR.
  • The graph plots the best, worst and average case directly from FIRECALC. (These are inflated dollars, whereas the summary text results from FIRECALC are current dollars).
  • The annuity costs are based on actual joint life annuity quotes for ages 65,70,75,80,85 & 90 using a PV calc to fill in the other ages. The annuity cost assumes 75% of planned expenses for income, an estimate of essential spending, often used in the how much to annuitize decision. Though I gather level income annuities are more common than inflation adjusted (?), the annuity quotes are based on planned expenses inflated by 3%/yr , so it's apples to apples with the portfolio $, both cases include inflation. You can see the incomes for the beginning and end of plan years. Had I not inflated the incomes each year, the annuity cost would decline much faster.
  • The graphs are the same, just one full Y-scale and the other abbreviated to make it easier to read.
  • You can see the crossover point for worst case for yourself, as well as the lack of crossover for average or best case.
I think we'll take our chances and wait a while, and forego the snarky remarks as well...
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File Type: gif Full.gif (28.6 KB, 19 views)
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Old 03-10-2012, 07:05 PM   #28
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Midpack, Thank you for bringing up the subject and forcing us to think about a plan b approach. The part that I continue to struggle with is that as long as the world continues to sort of muddle thru annuities are costly and a well diversified portfolio should do better.

On first impression, annuities sound like a great option if the world does fall off the cliff. But a little voice hovering over my left shoulder says something like "sure that annuity payment is fine as long as things go well. What's to keep the insurance company from declaring bankrupcy and there you are without your income stream if the world economy really goes belly up?" And I have heard the argument - no problem just split the annuity payments into small amounts so that the state insurance pool will cover the liability" sure if things are so dire is the state going to choose to use its limited resources to pay me or police and teachers?

Enough of my paranoia but that really is what keeps me from the annuity consideration. I really like the idea of deferring until my early 80's as mentioned earlier - if I'm still here and with enough marbles left I'll take another look.
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Old 03-11-2012, 11:42 AM   #29
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Thread question: For those of you who consider an annuity as part of your Plan B only, what methodology or trigger(s) do (or did) you plan to use to initiate purchasing an annuity? $ threshold? Age target? Stepwise annuitization? Other? Haven't thought about it yet?

Assumptions: We dont have pensions and Soc Sec wont guarantee an acceptable minimum retirement income wed be comfortable with. Our withdrawal rate is (hopefully) very conservative, but who knows what the next 40 years will bring. If all goes well and the market provides historical average or above real returns, we wont need to annuitize any of our portfolio. But as part of our plan B, if things go south we realize it may be in our best interest to annuitize part of our portfolio before we ever let the portfolio deplete too far.
We retired early (59/57) and live off our investments. Will pull Social Security @62 to reduce depletion of our investments for a hopefully larger portfolio to pass along. Social Security is our "Plan A" annuity and it comes with a COLA provision built into it (and goes away when we do, like most annuities). It will be a significant percentage (+/-33%) of our base living expenses and reduce our SWR for base living expenses to less than 3%. We have no pensions, and no ("Plan "A") plans to purchase annuities with our investments. I am not a fan of annuities, as I view them as complex hedging vehicles that one can easily lose their way (and control of their future income stream) purchasing. I view one's decision to include annuities in their retirement plan as unique as their fingerprints, and impossible to utilize a one size fits all scenario.

That being said - I do see positive value in Single Premium Immediate Annuities. I would include SPIAs in a "Plan B" scenario. I believe your feelings for a "Plan B" are similar to ours, in that our trigger would be if our investments prove to be inadequate to meet our base living expenses (minus Social Security) at our maximum target SWR of 4%. I don't see this trigger leaping at us - I believe we'll see trouble slowly coming (in the reduction of our investment portfolio and annual withdrawal percentage rate increases), and would have time to react before it's too late. We stash 1~2 years of cash as a cushion for those inevitable bumps in the road. I don't see age as a factor - just financial decisions based on the value of our portfolio to our base living expense needs. Nothings off the table in our retirement plans - including purchasing SPIAs and/or reducing our base living expenses (ie. downsizing living quarters).
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Old 03-11-2012, 12:01 PM   #30
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That being said - I do see positive value in Single Premium Immediate Annuities. I would include SPIAs in a "Plan B" scenario. I believe your feelings for a "Plan B" are similar to ours, in that our trigger would be if our investments prove to be inadequate to meet our base living expenses (minus Social Security) at our maximum target SWR of 4%. I don't see this trigger leaping at us - I believe we'll see trouble slowly coming (in the reduction of our investment portfolio and annual withdrawal percentage rate increases), and would have time to react before it's too late. We stash 1~2 years of cash as a cushion for those inevitable bumps in the road. I don't see age as a factor - just financial decisions based on the value of our portfolio to our base living expense needs. Nothings off the table in our retirement plans - including purchasing SPIAs and/or reducing our base living expenses (ie. downsizing living quarters).
Thanks for your thoughtful post, it all makes sense to us too. I also believe that while we'll need to be monitoring closely, I also "believe we'll see trouble slowly coming...and would have time to react." The charts above are evidence of same IMO. Most of us don't have volatile asset allocations, so while equities can indeed tank pretty quickly, with more limited exposure that most of us here presumably hold, things won't go south quite so quickly. We're at 50:40:10 and doubt we'll ever again go above 60% equity, fortunately we don't need to. Thanks again, I've gained some added perspective from most of the posts in this thread.
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Old 03-11-2012, 12:45 PM   #31
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...I also "believe we'll see trouble slowly coming...and would have time to react." ...Most of us don't have volatile asset allocations, so while equities can indeed tank pretty quickly, with more limited exposure that most of us here presumably hold, things won't go south quite so quickly.
This makes a lot of sense. I mentioned the scary aspect of deciding in a crisis but a major market downturn wouldn't have such a dramatic effect on a conservative portfolio. I am at 70% equities which was coloring my thoughts - but I have plan B covered with a COLA'd pension and a weekend house I could bail on. If I didn't have plan B covered I think I would hold a more conservative AA and would take the approach you are describing to an SPIA.
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Old 03-12-2012, 10:06 AM   #32
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Thanks for your thoughtful post, it all makes sense to us too. I also believe that while we'll need to be monitoring closely, I also "believe we'll see trouble slowly coming...and would have time to react." The charts above are evidence of same IMO. Most of us don't have volatile asset allocations, so while equities can indeed tank pretty quickly, with more limited exposure that most of us here presumably hold, things won't go south quite so quickly. We're at 50:40:10 and doubt we'll ever again go above 60% equity, fortunately we don't need to. Thanks again, I've gained some added perspective from most of the posts in this thread.

I moved our investments down to a 50/50 stock/bond ratio for retirement. Over the last year - cranked it down to a 45/55 mix to pull down the volatility a little more (increased the dividend payout slightly). Discovered this by observation of volatility in our Vanguard funds. Dividend payouts currently cover our base living expenses and future Social Security will allow the extras to continue to happen. Will sell investments if necessary for a total approach. I will probably play with the asset allocation as time goes along (based on how well/poorly our investments do over time), but plan on being range bound @ 45-50% equities. Understand that at around a 45/55 stock/bond allocation - the worst five year loss in past market conditions is about zero. Recently read this in a Merriman article on fine tuning your asset allocation. Don't invest with them - just kind of a financial news junky. I've attached the article for your review, as I see by your other posts you like the charts

We were fortunate enough to have stashed enough extra cash away to live off of until Social Security kicks in, and take great pride in finding a deal for just about everything. For the record, no debts (pay cash for everything via credit card - if it makes sense), and don't live under a rock. We close up the home and go south for the winters (on the cheap). Living below our means has worked well for us throughout our working days and serves us well in retirement. Maintaining a simple budget spreadsheet, and sticking to it is probably the biggest factor contributing to our ability to retire early.
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Old 03-12-2012, 02:56 PM   #33
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midpack,

I don't know. If anything, it would be Plan B.

I don't like annuities, but there may come a time when I lose my nerve or have to accept that I can't manage our assets anymore and have insufficient confidence in my heirs to do so. It would be later rather than sooner as it is not my first choice. The later I wait, the higher the yield, so it pays to wait--up to a point. If we went that way, my inclination is to buy several from different sources as I trust little those who back them. I would probably wind up waiting too long. As I get older and having seen how relatives aged, I am starting to think about a Plan B. I should formulate one before I get dotty.

It has more to do with my condition than market conditions.

fritz, thank you for the new Merriman link. His research made me more comfortable with the idea that I could manage investing successfully on my own. One of the reasons I am trying to stay 50/50 US/non-US equities.
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Old 03-12-2012, 03:17 PM   #34
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My approach will be to look at my portfolio and the math every few years to see whether annuities make sense.

First, on average, women live longer than men, so we don't get quite so much bang for our buck with annuities. Second, annuities generate a higher income if purchased when older, because on average you have fewer years to live. The earliest I expect that an annuity might make sense for me is 70, unless it was a deferred annuity. If I reach 70 and discover that I have a terminal disease, it won't make much sense to buy an annuity. Third, a high interest rate environment would be conducive to a better yield, so now is definitely not the time. Fourth, it's entirely possible that my portfolio will do well and my expenses will run no risk of exhausting it during my lifetime. If that turns out to be the happy situation, an annuity would be a waste of money. The legacy issue is not one I am concerned about.

Plan A is to spend <3% of my portfolio per annum and subsidize it with rental income.

Plan B would be as follows:

So, let's suppose I ER prior to age 60, and the markets are not doing well, and there is a high interest environment, and it looks like I'm going to be around for a while, I would shop around for SPIAs, and would include a deferred annuity in my search. If annuities made sense, I would probably buy several annuities over a year or two from different companies, enough to cover basic expenses, but would not spend more than 25% of my portfolio on them.
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Old 03-12-2012, 06:30 PM   #35
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Like W2R I am more concerned about longevity risk than portfolio risk. When I hit late 70's or 80. I may decide to give most of the portfolio away and buy a SPIA with the rest to cover all possible expenses. i would hope that by this age excitement from equity risk might be getting a little less exciting. Keep in mind that an SPIA is like negative life insurance and as such not really an "investment". Accordingly interest rates are not the main factor IMHO.
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Old 03-12-2012, 07:11 PM   #36
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The topic of the thread got me to go back to some of our Plan A, B strategy. I don't have annuities as a component of that strategy so you may not be interested. But here is our planning:

1) Use a fairly aggressive stock/bond portfolio to capture growth. Diversify with a value tilt bias and some international (for severe dollar problems). Have a decent portion of midcap stocks. Be willing to move some between value/growth, US/foreign base on predefined strategy.
2) Incorporate an element of market timing to avoid severely down trending markets only, not the run of the mill 5 to 10% corrections. I know the experts say not to do that but they (mostly) haven't studied the stats as I have. Aim is to avoid another 2008 but not the decline we had in 2011.
3) Calculate our base spending rate defined as the spending we do that keeps us at a basic level of happiness and pays the bills. In a crisis go to this spending rate. Example, target spending is 4.0%, base spending rate is 2.2%.
4) If all else fails, sell the big house and get a nice smaller place to live in.

Plan does not incorporate the end of civilization scenarios.
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Old 03-12-2012, 07:24 PM   #37
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Like W2R I am more concerned about longevity risk than portfolio risk. When I hit late 70's or 80. I may decide to give most of the portfolio away and buy a SPIA with the rest to cover all possible expenses.
I'd still be asking "But... what if I need that money someday?!?"

I can see living on one bucket of money labeled "our budget". Another bucket would be "long-term care", although spouse wants the label to read "euthanasia". (I'm pretty sure she means the label on her bucket.) Hopefully as we age through the grandparenting years we'll feel confident that our daughter and any descendants will have their own financial independence. But I still suspect that an engineering-safety-factor buffer of money would be left after probate.

Who knows: when I'm 95 years old, an annual $40K pension with a COLA may buy more surfboard wax than I could ever use. Maybe then I'd feel more comfortable pouring some of the money out of one of the buckets. But... but what if they stop paying my pension?!?

After a few years of research & exploration, we're not yet at the point where we're feeling fulfilled by giving-it-away philanthropy. But we've found plenty of things that are screwed up about it.
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Old 03-12-2012, 08:02 PM   #38
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I'd still be asking "But... what if I need that money someday?!?"
Excellent point.
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Old 03-12-2012, 09:36 PM   #39
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My plan B trigger is when our entire portfolio will buy an SPIA just big enough to cover our basic spending.

The plan is to compare assets to premiums every year. Needless to say, we started with substantial excess assets so I don't expect to do this seriously until poor investment returns force me to start thinking about it.

This plan did make it easier to justify retiring early. Instead of planning to cover our spending from assets until age 105 or whatever, it's easier to cover the price of an annuity at some older age.
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