Bond sales hit a record in 2022 amid higher interest rates and fear

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Last year, amid stock market volatility, recession fears and higher payouts, consumers pumped a record amount into annuities, a type of insurance that offers a guaranteed income stream.

It was estimated that buyers put $310.6 billion into annuities in 2022 Limraa trade group in the insurance industry.

That figure is a 17% increase from the previous record set in 2008, when consumers bought $265 billion in annuities. This year, the US was in the midst of the Great Recession, and the S&P 500 Index eventually bottomed, losing 57% from its peak.

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It looked similar in 2022 S&P500 posted its worst loss since 2008, ending the year down 19.4%. The US Federal Reserve aggressively raised interest rates to quell stubbornly high inflation, stoking fears that the central bank could inadvertently plunge the country into recession.

“In ugly times, people worry about safety,” said Lee Baker, a board-certified financial planner and founder of Atlanta-based Apex Financial Services and a member of the CNBC Advisory Board.

‘Unique’ confluence of factors drove bond sales

Anything that is based on protection and offers some protection against disadvantage is doing very well.

death Giesing

Associate Vice President of Limra Annuity Research

Consumers have been particularly bullish on fixed-rate deferred annuities over the past year. Total sales in this category — $112.1 billion — more than doubled from 2021, breaking the previous annual record in 2002 when consumers bought $80.8 billion, according to Limra data.

Fixed rate deferred annuities work like a certificate of deposit offered by a bank. Insurers guarantee a return over a set period of time, maybe three or five years. At the end of the term, buyers can get their money back, put it into another annuity, or convert their money into a source of income.

Another category — indexed annuities — made $79.4 billion, up 8% from 2019’s record, Limra said.

Indexed bonds hedge against downside risks. They are tied to a market index like the S&P 500; Insurers cap profits when the market is doing well, but put a floor on losses when there is a slump.

Consider annuities to help cover expenses, says financial advisor

“Anything that’s protection-based and has some protection against downside is doing very well,” Giesing told CNBC last fall.

Meanwhile, consumers have shied away from variable annuities, the performance of which is generally directly linked to the stock market. Annual sales from these annuities were $61.7 billion, the lowest since 1995, Limra said.

While the confluence of factors in 2022 — such as large stock and bond losses and rapidly rising interest rates — is unlikely to last in the short term, demographic trends, including baby boomer annuities, underpin the long-term growth potential for annuity sales, Giesing said. The average buyer is about 63 years old, he said.

This is how you can find out whether a pension makes sense for you

The fancier the annuity, the more the underlying fees accrue. And a lot of people don’t understand the limitations. It is important to know what you are buying.

Carolyn McClanahan

Founder of Life Planning Partners

“Am I worried that the customer will run out of money? If so, then I’m thinking about retirement,” Carolyn McClanahan, CFP and founder of Jacksonville, Fla.-based Life Planning Partners, told CNBC.

McClanahan, a member of CNBC’s Advisory Board, does not use lump sum annuities or deferred annuities for clients who have more than enough money to live comfortably in retirement.

Annuities are becoming more of a preference for those who fall somewhere in the middle, ie clients who are likely, but not necessarily, to have enough money. For them, it’s more of an emotional calculus: will a higher guaranteed income offer peace of mind?

“Many people don’t understand the restrictions”

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For example, consumers can buy variable and indexed annuities with certain features — known as “guaranteed living” — that give buyers a choice between a lifetime income stream or liquidity (i.e., a portion of their money back) if they need money early or don’t want their investment no longer. These features also generally come with higher costs, as well as restrictions and other fine print that consumers may find difficult to understand, the advisers said.

In contrast, consumers cannot recoup their capital when they purchase single premium immediate annuities or deferred income annuities. That’s a likely reason why consumers aren’t quick to buy them, despite their income efficiency, Giesing said.

Immediate pension against single contribution Revenue in 2022 was $9.1 billion and consumers bought about $2.1 billion in deferred income annuities, Limra said. For comparison, these numbers account for about one-twelfth and one-fiftyth of fixed-rate deferred annuity sales, respectively.

Protection-focused annuities might make sense for someone five to 10 years away from retirement who can’t stomach the investment volatility and is willing to pay a slightly higher cost for stability, Baker said.

However, their value proposition may not make sense for all investors as they now offer a yield of over 4% on safe haven assets such as shorter dated US Treasuries (a 3 months, 1 year And 2 years, for example) if they hold those bonds to maturity, Baker said. However, these government bonds do not guarantee a specific income stream like annuities do. Bond sales hit a record in 2022 amid higher interest rates and fear

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