3 min read

Question: I have some questions about Life Annuities - the answer to which would probably be very helpful to other people considering the same decisions.

Is it better to take a Life Annuity with a higher initial payout, but no escalation in the premium, or to take a Life Annuity with a lower initial payout but with an annual escalation?

Answer: A life annuity is a series of payments that you can buy from a life insurance company.  These payments will be made for the rest of your life. 

A life annuity can play a useful role in managing your finances as you are guaranteed a certain level of income for the rest of your life - regardless of what happens to the stock markets or how long you live.

You can elect to receive a level income for the rest of your life, or you can have the income increase by a set percentage each year.

If you choose a level annuity, the starting value will be much higher than an annuity that increases each year.  At some stage there will be a breakthrough where annuity that increases each year will be larger than the level one. 

Here is an example of a 65-year-old investing R2m into a life annuity: 

 Monthly income
Level annuityR22,000
Annuity that increases by 5% a yearR17,000

By the age of 71, the income from the increasing annuity will be greater than that of the level annuity 

 Monthly income at age 71
Level annuityR22,000
Annuity that increases by 5% a yearR22 782

So, from the age of 71, it makes more sense to have an increasing annuity.

An aspect that needs to be considered is that up to the age of 71, the level annuity provided a much higher income than the increasing one. If we added up all the payments received by the age of 71, we would have: 

 Total of all payments received by the age of 71
Level annuityR1 848 000
Annuity that increases by 5% a yearR1 660 970

However, by the age of 76, the increasing annuity would have resulted in a greater amount of income. 

 Total of all payments received by the age of 76
Level annuityR3 168 000
Annuity that increases by 5% a yearR3 247 094

On the surface, the increasing annuity looks like the better option, however, context is important.  I sometimes use a level annuity if a client has other investments.  The initial higher income from the level annuity allows me to invest the other funds in structures that may be more volatile but have a higher growth potential than a typical portfolio that is used for an income.  This can produce a better overall result for the client.

On the other hand, if this is the sum total of your retirement savings, then it would be irresponsible to choose a level one as you will encounter financial challenges in the future as your income is not growing while your expenses are increasing because of inflation.

Kenny Meiring MBA CFP ® is an independent financial adviser who helps people put investment and risk structures in place to live wonderful lives.  You can contact him on 082 856 0348 or at Financialwellnesscoach.co.za. Please send your questions to kenny.meiring@sfpwealth.co.za