Annuities aren't has-beens if you hunt for the best deal

Many investors feel the 'income for life' will end up leaving them short-changed. Annie Shaw finds they could be better off than they think

Annuities aren't popular with many people putting money by for their retirement, and it's easy to see why. Quite apart from the halving in annuity rates since the early 1990s, savers fear they won't get their money's worth. As 75 per cent of their private pension pot must be turned into one of these policies by the age of 75, in return for an income for life, there is a risk they won't live to enjoy all their savings. What's more, any unused annuity funds can't be passed on to their heirs when they pass away.

But on the flipside, there is no chance the money will run out with annuities, as it could do with other savings, and industry experts dispute the contention that they represent a bad deal. "Annuities are regularly written off by investors as poor value for money, but academic studies have repeatedly shown that they deliver fair value," says Tom McPhail, head of pensions research at independent financial adviser (IFA) Hargreaves Lansdown.

And we are all living longer. The Office for National Statistics predicts that the number of centenarians will grow to a total of 40,000 by 2031.

Buying an annuity is unavoidable for most people, but being lumbered with a bad deal isn't. The amount of income paid by a policy depends on the provider, and IFAs stress the importance of exercising the open market option (OMO). With the OMO, savers take their pension pot and buy the best possible annuity from the whole range of providers, instead of simply accepting the policy offered by the insurer that managed their pension fund.

The one situation where you should stick with your original provider is if your pension contains an annuity guarantee. Some older, usually with-profits, contracts have valuable guarantees that can give you an annuity rate up to 60 per cent higher than you will find on the open market.

How much income you receive will depend on a number of factors: the size of the fund saved, prevailing annuity rates, and estimated longevity as calculated by an actuary, who will consider your age at the time of buying the annuity and your gender.

Annuities can be taken out on a joint-life basis, which means the policy will continue to provide for a spouse or civil partner. In addition, they can be designed to increase in line with prices, which can be very useful. "Inflation is the enemy of retired people because it erodes the buying power of their pensions. Once you retire, there are no more bonuses, no more overtime and no more promotions," says Kevin Pacey, head of the Bank of Scotland Annuity Service.

Of course, adding a spouse or guarantee is going to cost more. In other words, it will mean less immediate income in exchange for added benefits.

"Inflation linking currently reduces the initial pension for a 65-year-old male by 35 per cent," says Mike Fosberry at adviser Smith & Williamson.

The annuity market works by pooling risk. This means that people with high-risk lifestyles or suffering from medical conditions actually get more, because they are unlikely to live as long as the healthy.

Smokers can get what's called an "enhanced annuity", while heart disease sufferers, asthmatics, diabetics and people who have a high body mass index can buy an "impaired annuity". These can equate to an income boost of anything up to 15 per cent.

Last year, Legal & General even started offering enhanced annuities to those living in postcode areas with higher-than-average mortality rates.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Life and Style
fashionLidl to launch a new affordable fashion range
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Planning Manager (Training, Learning and Development) - London

    £35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glob...

    Asset Finance Solicitor

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - ASSET FINANCE - An outstanding...

    HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

    £350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

    Techincal Accountant-Insurance-Bank-£550/day

    £475 - £550 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Technical Accountant-Insuran...

    Day In a Page

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment