How Annuities Can Help Calm the Market Roller Coaster

The summer of 2011 brought plenty of drama, with the debt-ceiling debate, the downgrade of U.S. debt and concerns about European debt all sending the stock market significantly lower.

It wouldn’t be surprising, given the market mayhem, to hear that financial advisors are juggling calls from worried clients. But many aren’t, because their clients invested in annuities.

An annuity is a contract between an investor and a life insurance company. You make a payment to the life insurance company, either in a lump sum or in a series of transactions, and in exchange the life insurance company offers you an ongoing stream of income at some point in the future.

Because fixed annuities promise guaranteed income payments, in good times and bad, investors who have purchased them don’t have to worry about market volatility.

That’s why sales of annuities have risen significantly in today’s market environment. They were up more than 16% to $60 billion in the first quarter of 2011, according to industry research group Limra. And, sales may rise even more.

In June, the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, suggested that some investors could benefit from buying fixed annuities rather than trying to manage their money themselves.

If you’d like to maintain a certain level of income, then an annuity might be worth consideration. But note that annuities can be complex, meaning it’s a good idea to have the assistance of an advisor when researching options and purchasing one.