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Retiring soon? Here is what you should know about annuities

Retirement is an important milestone that many of us look forward to with anticipation. Having built up a working lifetime’s worth of retirement savings, selecting the right annuity option to meet your income needs in retirement is important. You need to take the time to consider your income options carefully, which can be a daunting prospect. In this article, we explore the features of annuities to provide you with some guidance.

What is an annuity?

An annuity is a product that provides you with a regular income during your retirement. When you retire, at least two-thirds of your retirement fund savings must be used to purchase an annuity. One of your main considerations will be whether to purchase a life annuity or a living annuity.

What are the key differences between a life (guaranteed) annuity and a living annuity?

The type of annuity suitable for you will depend on your unique circumstances. In general, the following types of annuities are available in the market:

For all types of annuities, the income will be taxed according to your marginal tax rate.

The key factors to consider at retirement

There are many factors that will influence your decision of providing an income in retirement. The key factors that you need to consider include the following:

  • Understand your living costs in retirement – create a three- to five-year budget of your living costs at retirement. Start with your minimum living expenses. These may include food, housing and medical expenses. This will represent the minimum income you need. Keep in mind that living expenses will generally increase with inflation. A financial adviser can help you draw up a budget by doing a financial needs analysis for you.

  • Consider your lifestyle – for example, take account of your hobbies or holiday preferences. Note that by drawing a lower income in the early years of retirement, you will have more later on to cover increasing inflationary expenses and possibly increasing medical expenses.

  • Consider your accumulated savings from all sources and funds, and other sources of income outside of the annuity (e.g. rental income from a property you may own).

  • Consider those who depend on your income – if you have a spouse or other people who are dependent on your income, take into account that they will require an income if you pass away before they do.

  • Consider the state of your health – the healthier you are, the longer you are expected to live and the longer the annuity must last.

The main financial risks in retirement

Additional considerations when choosing an annuity

  • Enhanced/impaired life annuities

Some life companies allow you to secure a higher monthly income as a result of certain medical conditions, since these may influence your life expectancy.

  • Guaranteed periods In the case of life annuities, you may want to consider your need for a guaranteed payment period. This can be useful in the event of early death if the payments are required for a specific period (for example, if you have a few years of home loan payments remaining).

  • Marital status Most life annuities can be purchased on a ‘single-life or ‘joint-life' basis. Purchasing an annuity on a joint-life basis means that the annuity income will continue until the death of both you and your spouse. You may also be given the option to reduce annuity payments at the time of death of the first spouse. Living annuities allow you to nominate your spouse as a beneficiary to inherit the remaining funds upon your death. The funds can then be used to fund his/her needs as required.

  • Financial needs of loved ones

A life annuity does not provide payment on your death and therefore is not suited to pa