Retirees Prefer Guaranteed Income Over Spending Down Assets

Half of retirees expect to grow their non-guaranteed assets over the next decade, while another three in 10 expect to keep their non-guaranteed assets at a constant level, a survey found.

A new survey finds that retirees continue to rely extensively on sources of income that are guaranteed for life, instead of spending down non-guaranteed assets.

Half of retirees expect to grow their assets over the next decade, while another three in 10 expect to keep their non-guaranteed assets at a constant level, according to the 2nd Annual Guaranteed Lifetime Income Study released by Greenwald & Associates and CANNEX, an independent provider of data and information to the financial services industry.

Nearly half of study respondents spend at least $3,500 a month from guaranteed sources of income, such as Social Security, pensions and annuities, but nearly as many—41%—do not spend any money at all from their non-guaranteed assets.

“We found that most retirees feel it’s important to preserve their asset levels if they can, and many cut spending to do it,” says study author Mathew Greenwald, president and CEO of Greenwald & Associates.

Another key finding: women have greater interest in purchasing annuities that offer guaranteed lifetime income (GLI). Nearly seven in 10 women say that purchasing an annuity is an appealing strategy to generate retirement income; only 57% of men say the same. However, women are more likely to worry about the company offering the annuity and to feel like they don’t know enough about the products.

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While some annuities do offer GLI, many pre-retirees and retirees are not familiar with these financial products. The survey found that understanding of financial products that guarantee lifetime income is low. For example, only 15% know that annual payments from immediate annuities are higher than payments from the highest rated bonds. Also, only 32% know that immediate annuities generally cost less for those who purchase them later in life.

In addition, many consumers avoid annuities for fear of not having access to their money should they need it. Ninety percent of those without annuities that offer GLI identify “access to money” as a reason for not owning one. The common desire to preserve assets is clearly also a desire to preserve access to assets.  

“This survey indicates that many people think their asset level is quite important, but most do not define a guaranteed stream of income for life as an asset when they calculate how much money they have,” said Gary Baker, president of CANNEX USA. “This type of thinking deters many from supplementing their Social Security income with annuity income for life, which could help optimize their portfolios.” 

The most trusted source of information about annuities is a financial adviser: 83% of survey respondents said they would trust this source. Nearly as many, 78%, would trust a retirement plan provider to provide information about annuities. Financial institutions are trusted slightly less, but two-thirds would trust this source. Online financial resources rank next to the bottom of this list, with only 34% of consumers trusting this source.

The appeal of annuities is much higher when presented as part of a broader financial strategy. When given a hypothetical scenario and a set of potential investment strategies, more than 60% of survey respondents thought the options that included an annuity were good strategies, while less than half said the same about a strategy that put money only in mutual funds.