Journalism in the Public Interest

Did You Buy a Variable Annuity with Lifetime Guarantee Benefit?
by Jake Bernstein
ProPublica, Dec. 17, 2012, 5:44 pm

sxc image via PocketAces

In the early 2000s, life insurers introduced a new retirement product – variable annuities with guaranteed living withdrawal benefits (GLWB). The lifetime withdrawal benefit was designed to protect policyholders from market risk and from outliving their money, allowing them to withdraw a certain percentage of their investment regardless of its performance annually for the rest of their lives.

Until recently, companies competed to offer the most enticing GLWB benefits to attract customers — for example, vying to guarantee the highest growth rates on accounts. But many of the GLWB benefits are no longer available. For many, the accounts have worked as promised: insurance companies owe policyholders more than the current value of their investment account. Today, some companies are trying to buy these benefits back from consumers.

We are looking to interview consumers who purchased variable annuities back when these generous guarantees were available. Are you pleased that you bought your variable annuity when you did? Does the value of the guarantee exceed that of your investment? Is the company you bought it from trying to buy it back? Tell us your story below.

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