Annuity Issuers RILA Sales and Guardian’s New Annuity: A 2023 Perspective

They say numbers never lie, and as a financial analyst and legal expert, I am here to help guide you through finances labyrinth. I have been navigating this landscape for over a decade, noticing where financial markets are entwined with legal regulations.

One popular financial product that has caught my attention is the Registered Index-Linked Annuity, or RILA. Often issued by major companies like The Guardian Insurance & Annuity Company, RILAs seem to have struck a chord with investors. To throw light on the trend, let’s take a glance at the stats. RILA sales constituted $47 billion of U.S. insurers’ $385 billion in individual annuity sales in 2023, according to LIMRA’s issuer survey data. That is a significant chunk of the market, isn’t it?

Why Do Annuity Issuers Prefer RILAs?

Annuity issuers are fond of RILAs as they can foot these products with derivatives instead of taking the onus of managing an investment fund. This strategy helps them administer the investment risk smoothly. This process might sound a tad complex, but I’ll simplify it for you with an analogy. Imagine that you own a bakery which is quite popular for cakes. Instead of hiring a dedicated team of cake decorators, you decide to outsource this task to other experts. You still get to sell the cake (derivative), but you mitigate the risks associated with cake decoration (investment fund management).

Switching gears to specifics, let’s dive into more detail about a brand new annuity introduced by a subsidiary of The Guardian.

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Unwrapping The Guardian Annuity

This annuity by The Guardian can be purchased with a minimum premium payment of $25,000 and a ceiling of $1 million, in most states. Please note that the contract will not be sold on Feb. 29, to sidestep any leap year-related knots tied to contract purchase anniversaries. An interesting detail, isn’t it?

Ducking Unpleasant Surprises

Being informed, in my book at least, equates to being safe. As a finance and legal connoisseur, I strongly agree with Michael Kosoff, an SEC attorney, who expressed the importance of thorough RILA disclosures, during the Life Insurance Products Conference in 2022. Following this, Guardian significantly altered its SEC filings by offering a selection of reminders. Here are a few crucial points that stood out:

  • The prospectus delineates all integral rights and responsibilities of annuity purchasers under the contract.
  • RILA contracts are intricate insurance and investment vehicles, and are not index funds or investments in any underlying fund. Investors are advised to consult with a financial professional to comprehend the contract’s characteristics, benefits, perils, and fees, and decide whether the contract would be suitable for them based on their financial condition and goals. “You could lose money under the contract”, says Guardian.
  • The company’s commitments under the contract are contingent on its creditworthiness and claims payment capacity.
  • Should you invest in an IPCS with the lowest level of protection presently available, a -10% buffer, you could suffer losses up to 90% at the close of the strategy term due to negative index performance.

Navigating the Terrain

Investing can indeed be mingled with risks and, as John C. Bogle rightly said, “Time is your friend; impulse is your enemy.” You need to pick an advisor who does not only guide you during the ups but also stays with you during the downs.

It’s a startling fact that according to the FINRA, up to 15% of advisors have had a troubling incident on their records. Unfortunately, not all financial advisors are equal or indeed always have your best interest at heart. So, before making any investment, it is crucial to run a background check of your potential advisor’s FINRA CRM number through FINRA’s official website.

If the indexes that Guardian uses cease to exist, it will replace those indexes or minimize the number of indexes available, according to its disclosure. So, it’s perceptively clear that an informed decision, backed by knowledge and guidance, is the key to successful financial strategies. After all, we all aim for an investment that caters to our goals and risk tolerance, don’t we?

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