It's All Relative


April 3, 1998, was the first time the Dow Jones industrial average reached 9,000 points. Many people thought the index could not go much higher, while others believed in the irrational exuberance of the stock market. Regardless of what you thought at the time, the results since then point to the value of fixed indexed annuities.

At the close of business on April 3, 2014, the Dow closed at 16,572 points. The total rate of return equates to 4.14 percent over a 16-year period. If you consider the impact of capital gains on the investment, the return decreases to 3.52 percent. After assuming a 100bps investment management fee, the real rate of return is 2.52 percent. Fee and tax drag took away nearly 40 percent of the gross return.

Many advisors are telling me that the low cap environment prevents them from showing FIAs to their clients. If you consider that an index would only need to pierce a 4 percent cap 63 percent of the time to beat a 2.52 percent real rate of return, FIAs make a great choice for many clients. Considering there is no market risk associated with FIAs, the client would see a more consistent return than having been in the market over the same period.

Relatively speaking, FIAs have performed well over long periods of time against the general market, even in a low interest rate and cap rate environment. Give FIAs a look for the conservative portion of your portfolios. You might find that the FIA portion doesn't create drag in the overall return.

Income is Temporary


One of the most unique products for income planning is Temporary Life. This single-premium annuity provides an increased income stream when the client is willing to assume some of the longevity risks. If placed correctly, Temporary Life can increase your payout and enhance the overall return associated with income planning. 

If you wanted to generate $9,000 a month for a male, age 70, based upon a life and 15-year certain payout; the client would need to purchase a $134,902.09 SPIA*. If the client utilized Temporary Life for 15 years, the premium needed is reduced to $100,861.92. Let's assume the difference ($34,040) is invested, and it earns a net 6 percent for the 15 years. That investment would grow to $81,579.24 by the end of the 15th year. 

If you had deposited the full $134,902, taken $9,000 annually and ended with $81,579 as an account balance, the gross return is 4.81 percent. More importantly, you would have to find an income rider generating a 6.67 percent payout to match the annual income. 

In this case, Temporary Life has taken the client to near life expectancy with a substantially higher annual income. The unused premium creates a side fund to use for emergencies or for additional income at age 85. It's easy to look at variable annuities with income riders for solutions, but there are alternatives that can provide clients more options, flexibility and better benefits. Call Ash Brokerage for alternatives in your next income planning case. 

*Rates as of March 24, 2014, from A+ carrier with a 96 Comdex

Experience matters


The NCAA Final Four is an exciting place to be. It is often referred to as "The Pinnacle of College Basketball,” and this year, Florida, Connecticut, Wisconsin and Kentucky climbed to the top. It takes talent, skill – and in some cases a little luck – to make it to the Final Four. The other component that shows up during post-season tournaments is experience.

Clearly, teams with pure talent can make it to the finals. For example, Kentucky has nine freshmen on its squad. But to really build a program, you need experience. Florida and Connecticut have senior point guards who are true leaders for their teams. Florida reached the Elite Eight the previous three years before reaching the Final Four this year, which is an unbelievable achievement. Connecticut has won previous national championships with quality senior guard play like they are getting this year. And Wisconsin has two seniors and a host of experienced juniors on its team. 

In order to build a financial services business that stands the test of time, you need experience behind you. Your firm may specialize in investments, wealth management or other facets of financial planning. To round out your offerings, you want experience to help drive the other arms of your clients’ plans. An experienced partner can help boost your firm's risk mitigation and overall insurance offerings. Ash Brokerage provides more than 225 years of annuity experience, and more than 240 years of life insurance wholesaling experience. Call us to determine how our experience can help you reach the pinnacle of the financial services industry.

Concentration kills creativity


I am constantly surprised when I meet advisors around the country and discuss their concentration into one product or one carrier. Realizing that our presentations get better with repetition, we tend to stick with our comfort level and what worked most recently. Those factors lead to a routine, which leads to a high concentration in products or services. This concentration kills the creativity used in client solutions, which ultimately hurts our industry's end users.

If you were to audit your product preferences and carriers, would you find too much concentration into one offering? We spend a considerable amount of time examining our clients' portfolios for concentration risk. Are you doing the same thing for your business? In the current interest rate environment, carriers have been forced to make changes to benefits, payout structures, and income rider values. Today, there are more solutions available to meet the increasing demands of longevity protection. We have a responsibility to search for customized solutions for unique consumer goals and objectives.

It's time that we lose the comfort level for a specific product or carrier. Instead, we need to get comfortable with research, seeking knowledge, and pursuing what best meets our clients’ objectives. I challenge all advisors to rethink their value to their clients. Our value should not be dependent on a product; our value needs to be our intellectual value of searching for the right solutions. Our concentration with one story might erode our value and creativity.